Excerpts from Esperanto, a Western Language?


These are excerpts from Esperanto, a Western Language? by Claude Piron.
I am only showing a few parts here that I liked. Please go read the full article for your pleasure.

…Seeing an Esperanto text may somewhat alter your first impressions. The presence of some consonants with little hooks, the recurrence of the letter j after a vowel at the end of words, groups of letters like kv give it an aspect reminiscent of Slovene or Croatian. If this suggests to you a Slavic influence, you’ll be on the right track. Esperanto was born in Eastern Europe. Its syntax, many grammatical features, a number of phrases and the style of a typical sentence do betray an important Slavic substratum…


…In Arabic, in order to form the plural, you often have to transform the whole interior of the word: kitab ‘book’ becomes kutub ‘books’. Persian, which has borrowed many words from Arabic, has not kept the latter’s irregular plurals. To form the plural, you add the ending –ha, so that the plural of kitab has not to be memorized separately, it is simply kitabha, ‘books’. Esperanto is characterized by a similar simplicity. You need just a split second to learn how to form the plural of any noun, since you only have to remember that it is done by adding a j, which is always pronounced as the y in boy.


…Most Westerners do not imagine that some languages are so consistent that irregular verbs, exceptions in plural formation or unclear derivation are, for their speakers, unthinkable, something like the aberrant product of a neurotic mind. It is so much more pleasant to do without those inconsistencies and yet to understand one another perfectly! Among such languages are Chinese, Vietnamese and… Esperanto. These three have in common a feature that sets them apart from most languages, especially the Indo-European ones: they are composed of strictly invariable elements which can combine without restriction. For people who speak such a language, the idea that ‘first’ cannot be derived from ‘one’ as tenth is from ten, seems quite bizarre, as it seems incomprehensible that there is no pattern in the modulations of pronouns, so that you have to learn, besides I, a whole series of words like me, my and mine. In Chinese, ‘my’ and ‘mine’ are, so to say, the adjective form of ‘I’: wo, ‘I’, wode ‘my’, ‘mine’ (compare women ‘we’, womende ‘our’, ‘ours’).


…Those who criticize Esperanto for being too Western overlook two important aspects of the question. First, they neglect to proceed to a linguistic analysis of the language, which is the only way to discover how different it is, in depth, from what it seems to be at first sight: their judgment is purely superficial. Second, they ignore the fact that some language is necessary if people with different mother tongues have to communicate. In practice, on what language does one fall back when mutual comprehension is needed and Esperanto is not used? On English! Isn’t this one a Western language?…


…After 2000 hours of English (five hours a week for ten school years), the average Japanese and Chinese are incapable of using it in a really operational way. Their clumsiness, as well as their difficulty in producing the relevant sounds, tend to complicate communication or to make them ridiculous, a risk which is, unfairly, spared the native speaker of English, although he is the one who has made no effort towards mutual understanding. After 220 hours of Esperanto, as an average, Eastern Asians can really communicate in that language, a language which is a foreign language for everybody and in which the risk of sounding strange is thus equally distributed…


…Whoever wants to play fair and to be objective has to refrain from criticizing Esperanto as long as he has not proceeded to a deep enough analysis of the language and to comparisons with English and the mother tongues of the peoples whose interests he pretends to defend…

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  1. Esperanto devas malvenki kvankam ne staras kun gxi grandaj diaboloj de cxiuj mondo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Ĉu vi pensas ke vi estas (kaŭ fariĝas) tio kion vi rezistadas envive?

    Ne ĝuste, sed preskaŭ. Mi ne opinias ke ni ĝuste iĝas tio, kio ni rezistas, sed, niaj egooj iĝas definitaj per niaj evitoj, rezistoj, kaj ligoj. Rezisto ne gvidas oni en liberecon.


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