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Esperanto (eo and epo in ISO 639) is the most widely spoken of the constructed languages. L. L. Zamenhof created the foundation of the language in 1887 after ten years of working on it (see Esperanto history). His intention was to create an easy-to-learn language, to serve as an international auxiliary language, a second language for everyone in the world, rather than to replace all existing languages in the world. Some Esperanto speakers still want this, but most just want to meet foreigners and learn about other countries and cultures. Today, thousands of people use it regularly to communicate with people all over the world.

Esperanto has proven to be a good deal easier for speakers of European languages to learn as a second language than any national language (especially highly irregular and/or non-phonetic languages such as English, French, and Chinese). There is also evidence that studying Esperanto before studying any other second language (especially an Indo-European language) speeds and improves learning, because learning subsequent foreign languages is easier than learning one's first, while the use of a grammatically simple auxiliary language lessens the "first foreign language" learning hurdle. In one study, a group of high school students studied Esperanto for one year, then French for three years, and ended up with a better command of French than the control group, who studied French without Esperanto during all four years.

A survey of the number of Esperanto speakers was conducted by Sidney S. Culbert[?], a retired psychology professor of the University of Washington, himself a Esperantist who has attended Esperanto congresses, who has commented regarding the logical structure of Esperanto: "If the world could be structured that efficiently", and whose wife Ruth, who has herself written four plays in Esperanto, has commented "It's the only hope for the world or it will be destroyed" ([1] (http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/Eo_unue/mondvasta)). Culbert concluded that 1.6 million people speak Esperanto to Foreign Service Level 3 ability. This number is limited to those "professionally proficient" (possessing the ability to actually communicate beyond greetings and simple phrases) in Esperanto. This survey wasn't just for speakers of Esperanto, but was a world-wide survey of many languages. This number also appears in the Almanac World Book of Facts[?], and in Ethnologue. The Ethnologue data may need to be treated with caution, as on their web page (http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ESP) they incorrectly categorize Esperanto as a language of France, and also give -al as a dative ending (not quite correct; al is a separate word meaning "to"). Assuming nonetheless that this figure is accurate, this means that about 0.03% of the world's population speaks the language, thus far falling short of Zamenhof's goal of a universal language[?]. Ethnologue also states that there are 200-2000 native Esperanto speakers.

However, some key persons within the Esperanto movement have lamented how few of the speakers then progress to a high level of fluency. Most notably, the author Julio Baghy[?] critiqued mediocre Esperantists in his ironic poem Estas mi Esperantisto ("I am an Esperantist"). Also the author Kazimierz Bein[?], while attending a conference at which it was generally agreed that everyone should learn Esperanto, remarked that the first who ought to learn it were the Esperantists themselves.

Table of contents
1 a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z

Criticism of Esperanto

Esperanto is not necessarily accepted as the ideal solution for an international auxiliary language. Esperanto has had numerous criticisms, especially from the auxiliary language community. Some of the other planned languages that have emerged in the twentieth century have attempted to address criticisms of Esperanto:

  • Esperanto has a large set of morphemes. (Please insert justification of this criticism.)
  • Esperanto contains six letters not included in the ASCII character set. The missing letters cause some difficulty in using Esperanto on a computer.
  • Esperanto uses sexist suffixes by adding -in to express the female version of the concept, similarly to German. This produces a gender inequality because the generic form is the same as the male form (e.g. doktoro = "a doctor" or "a male doctor"), but different from the female form (doktorino). (A male form, virdoktoro, from viro = "man", can be constructed but is rarely used in practice.) Likewise for pronouns: as in English, li ("he") may be generic, whereas sxi ("she") is always female.
  • Esperanto is insufficiently neutral, being based almost exclusively on European source languages. This refers in particular to the vocabulary, but also applies to the orthography, and to the grammar (which retains many features of the grammars of European languages, although the forms are more regularized). Critics charge that this makes the language Euro-centric. The problem with this is not that it is any harder for non-Europeans than many other languages, but that it detracts from the neutrality which many including Zamenhof recognised as being essential to a world language (see La Espero, fifth stanza).
  • Esperanto words are more changed in othography and endings from their etymological cognates than in some auxiliary languages. This makes some Esperanto words less recognisable without study to those already familiar with the cognates. For example, English quarter, Italian quarto, Interlingua quarto, Esperanto kvarono; also English/French pollution, Interlingua pollution, Esperanto poluado (Esperanto polucio is a false friend meaning "involuntary ejaculation"). The main relevance of this criticism, which is seemingly opposed to the previous criticism, is that a language which lacks the neutrality to be a world language, such as Esperanto or Interlingua, could nonetheless be a regional common language; for this purpose, the recognisable cognates are an advantage. (Recognisable cognates would also be an advantage in a world language, provided that they were drawn from a much larger spread of source languages.)

Responses to Criticism of Esperanto

  • Esperanto has a large set of morphemes. This makes it more similar to Asian languages. Several Esperanto speakers and linguists also say that this makes the language more flexible and expressive.
  • Esperanto contains six letters not included in the ASCII character set. This problem is common to many languages, although it can be remedied through the use of the Unicode character set. Esperantists have also developed a system of using the letter "x" to signify these special characters; this system is called the X-System. Also, this tends to only be a criticism among English speakers.
  • Esperanto uses sexist suffixes by adding -in to express the female version of the concept, similarly to German. Some argue that this gives Esperanto more flexibility; it allows one to express the female gender using the same root.
  • Esperanto is based almost exclusively on European source languages. Although the vocabulary uses the same roots as European source languages, Esperanto's regularized grammatical forms give it some degree of uniqueness. Its shared vocabulary can expedite learning for those who have already studied a European language (even if they can't speak it). Compared to a language with completely unique words, there is no increased difficulty for those who do not speak a European language.
  • Esperanto words are more changed in othography and endings from their etymological cognates than in some auxiliary languages. Ultimately, one may argue that these changes keep Esperanto internally consistent. As a counter-argument to charges that Esperanto is a Euro-centric language, one might state that these changes show that Esperanto is not intended to be Euro-centric.

Despite its criticisms, no other constructed language has approached the number of Esperanto speakers or has an extensive body of literature like Esperanto. Some of these other languages are quite different from Esperanto while other languages, like Ido, are based on Esperanto, and enjoyed a period of popularity in the early 1900s. More recent spinoffs from Esperanto include the modified form Riismo which seeks to eliminate sexual inequality from the language. Other alternative languages include Idiom Neutral[?], Occidental, Novial, and Interlingua; some languages not originally intended as international auxiliary languages are also sometimes suggested, such as Lojban. Because Esperanto is the most well-known of constructed languages, many who have been interested were unaware of these other languages, but there is information about these languages on the Internet as well.


The phonemic alphabet of Esperanto has six accented letters: ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ (c, g, h, j, and s with circumflex), and ŭ (u with breve). The alphabet does not include the letters q, w, x, and y.

Therefore the alphabet is:

a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z

(See also the external PDF file The Alphabets of Europe (http://www.evertype.com/alphabets/esperanto.pdf).)

As of June 22, 2003, the Esperanto version of the Wikipedia (http://eo.wikipedia.com/) had 6789 articles, making it the eighth largest language in the Wikipedia.

Angoroj (1964) was the first film produced in Esperanto. Incubus (1965, starring William Shatner) is the only known feature film with entirely Esperanto dialogue.

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