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Esperanto    音標拼音: [,ɛspɚ'ænto]
n. 世界語


n 1: an artificial language based as far as possible on words
common to all the European languages

Esperanto \Es`pe*ran"to\, n.
An artificial language, intended to be universal, devised by
Dr. Zamenhof, a Russian, who adopted the pseudonym "Dr.
Esperanto" in publishing his first pamphlet regarding it in
1887. The vocabulary is very largely based upon words common
to the chief European languages, and sounds peculiar to any
one language are eliminated. The spelling is phonetic, and
the accent (stress) is always on the penult. A revised and
simplified form, called {Ido} was developed in 1907, but
Esperanto remained at the end of the 20th century the most
popular artificial language designed for normal human
linguistic communication. -- {Es`pe*ran"tist}, n.
[Webster 1913 Suppl. PJC ]

By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff, 05/12/99
A surprising 2 million speakers worldwide get their
words' worth from the 'planned language' created in the
19th century
People were thinking big in the late 19th century. They
utopianized, they universalized, they created Zionism,
the modern Olympics, the Socialist International.
Thinking big back then sometimes meant thinking weird.
Inundate the planet with a dark bubbly syrup? Try
Coca-Cola. Chew 80 times before swallowing your food?
Fletcherism, as the practice was called, was once more
popular than Coke. A universal language? Say
Unlike Coke, Esperanto has not conquered the world.
Unlike Fletcherism, neither has it disappeared. In the
late 20th century, it remains on the tip of
surprisingly many tongues.
Esperanto? It's Greek to me: Esperanto was invented by
Dr. Ludwig L. Zamenhof, an optometrist, in 1887. A
Polish Jew, Zamenhof grew up in Bialystok, a city where
Russian, Polish, German, and Yiddish were commonly
spoken. Zamenhof had a knack for languages (he spoke
eight, not counting Esperanto). He was also very much a
product of his era. It occurred to him that if
different peoples all spoke the same tongue, they might
get along better. He decided to invent one - not a
language to replace other languages, but one to
supplement them, so that everyone, regardless of native
tongue, might be able to communicate with one another.
Zamenhof began working on his project when he was 15
and spent 13 years perfecting it. He presented his new
language in a book called "Dr. Esperanto's
International Language." "Esperanto" means "one who
Esperanto derives its vocabulary from various European
languages: Latin, Greek, and Romance and Germanic
tongues. The grammar is regular and greatly simplified.
The spelling is phonetic, and nouns have no genders.
Its regularity and simplicity make it easy to learn.
"In the beginning": "En la komenco Dio kreis la cielon
kaj teron" is the Esperanto translation of the first 10
words from the King James Version of the Bible ("In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth").
First, there was Volapuk: Esperanto is neither the
first nor only constructed language. The idea goes back
at least to the 17th century and the philosopher Rene
Descartes. It derived further intellectual credence
from the Enlightenment belief in universal systems and
the primacy of reason. However, it wasn't until the
late 19th century that the first constructed languages
Volapuk, invented by a Catholic priest, the Rev. J. M.
Schleyer, predates Esperanto by nearly a decade. It
attracted several hundred thousand practitioners, but
once the novelty wore off, Volapuk quickly lost out to
Esperanto. Both languages eventually gave birth to
"improved" versions, known, respectively, as Idiom
Neutral and Ido (short for Esperandido), but neither
really took hold.
Other invented languages include Solresol, based on the
musical scale; Timerio, a numerical language; Glosa, an
attempt to create an international language using as
few words as possible; and Interlingua, which is
derived from English and Romance languages.
Diego Marani, a translator for the European Council of
Ministers in Brussels, has drawn considerable attention
with his Europanto, a playful blend of English and
various European languages (see sidebar).
Lights! Camera! Esperanto!: An Esperanto film canon
exists, albeit consisting of only one title, "Incubus,"
a 1965 fantasy/sci-fi feature starring a pre-"Star
Trek" William Shatner. The "Incubus" Web site
(http://www.incubusthefilm.com) makes noises about a
forthcoming video release, but no dates are given.
What's so funny about peace, love, and Esperanto?:
Elvis Costello commissioned Esperanto liner notes for
his album "Blood and Chocolate."
The East is Esperantist: There are an estimated 2
million Esperantists in the world, and they live in at
least 86 countries.
Historically, the movement has been strongest in
Central Europe. As Miko Sloper, director of the
Esperanto League for North America (ELNA), points out,
"You travel a hundred miles in any direction there and
you might need to speak some other language to be
understood. It's very practical to have a common
language, and for obvious political reasons most people
there certainly didn't want it to be Russian."
Though the World Esperanto Association (UEA) is
headquartered in Rotterdam, more than half the world's
Esperanto speakers are now believed to live in China.
The language's popularity there stems from a 40-part
instructional series broadcast on Chinese television in
the early '90s.
Large pockets of Esperantists also exist in Korea and
Truth, justice, and the Esperanto way: ELNA, the
leading Esperanto organization in this country, is
located in El Cerrito, Calif. The Bay Area is the
closest thing America has to an Esperanto hotbed,
thanks largely to San Francisco State University, whose
annual Summer Esperanto Workshop celebrates its 30th
anniversary in July.
Locally, the Esperanto Society of New England has about
50 members.
One hobbit, one orc, one elf, one dwarf - one
language?: J. R. R. Tolkien, who taught philology at
Oxford University when not writing "The Hobbit" and
"The Lord of the Rings," gave Esperanto his
endorsement, sort of.
"My advice to all who have the time or inclination to
concern themselves with the international language
movement would be: `Back Esperanto loyally.'"
Friends in high places: At least six Nobel Prize
winners have been Esperantists. So was Yugloslavia's
postwar ruler Josip Broz Tito.
Esperanto? Ho, ho, ho: The language's image as a sort
of verbal vegetarianism has meant that Esperanto often
serves as a linguistic fall guy. Isaac Bashevis Singer
once denounced modern Hebrew "as soulless Esperanto."
Fran Lebowitz writes in one of her humor pieces, "The
writer is to the real world what Esperanto is to the
language world - funny, maybe, but not that funny."
You can judge a language by its enemies: Hitler derided
Esperanto in "Mein Kampf." Stalin labeled it "the
language of spies." US Senator Joseph McCarthy accused
Esperantists of being communists.
You can judge a language by its literature: PEN, the
international writers organization, has an Esperanto
chapter. Some 30,000 titles have been published in the
language. "People write novels in Esperanto," says
Humphrey Tonkin, professor of humanities at the
University of Hartford and past president of the UEA.
"There's quite a lot of poetry. As with any other
language, there are good novels and bad novels, good
poetry and bad poetry."
Among authors translated into Esperanto are Dante,
Tolstoy, Goethe, Ibsen, and Sartre.
Bill Gates does not speak Esperanto: Sun Microsystems
originally advertised its Java computing system as "the
Esperanto of computer languages."
Then again, maybe he does: The number of Esperanto Web
sites - for instance, there's
http://esperanto.wunderground.com, which offers weather
forecasts in Esperanto - would suggest the language has
a disproportionately high following among the digerati.
"It kind of makes intuitive sense, " says Sloper, that
people who use artificial languages on-screen would be
intrigued by an artificial language in the rest of
their lives (actually, Esperantists prefer the term
"planned language").
David Wolff, an Acton software engineer who's the
president of ELNA, agrees. "Programmers are used to
looking for solutions to things, looking for ways to
fix problems, and looking especially for ways that are
inexpensive and effective. Esperanto is that kind of a
solution. You follow simple rules. It's easy to get
into and to learn it, and it clearly solves a specific
kind of problem."
Waiting for the "fina venko": "We're still a little
club, in a way, and there's a camaraderie to that,"
says Sloper.
"Esperantists speak of the `fina venko,' or `final
victory.' The concept is that eventually every
moderately educated person on the earth will know
Esperanto enough to, say, be able to order a cup of
coffee in it. Is that going to happen? I don't really
care. It would be nice if everyone knew Esperanto, but
already there are enough people who do so that we have
a community.
"There are directories of Esperantists all over the
world, and when someone is traveling to a foreign
country it will frequently happen that an Esperantist
will write or e-mail a fellow Esperantist and be
invited to stay in his home. Does that happen with
people who speak just English? I don't think so."
--Mark Feeney
[This story ran on page F01 of the Boston Globe on 05/12/99.
Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.] (available at

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