Chu vi sciis, ke la iniciatoro de Esperanto estas judo?

Don’t worry, your daily Jewish Treats hasn’t switched languages. Did you know that the initiator of Esperanto was Jewish? Perhaps, though, we should first explain that Esperanto is a language that was created in the late 19th century in the hope of using linguistics to create universal peace.

Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (given name Eliezer Levi Samenhof, 1859-1917) was born in Bialystok, then part of Russia and now part of Poland. He was fluent in Russian, Yiddish, and German, with an understanding of Latin, Hebrew and French. He was also familiar with Greek, English and Italian. Zamenhof believed that language was one of the great barriers to peace. In his own hometown, indeed, within his own Jewish community, Zamenhof noticed that language barriers seemed to either exacerbate, or even cause, dissension among people.

By 1878, prior to attending medical school (professionally, Zamenhof was an opthomologist), Zamenhof created his Lingwe Uniwesala (universal language). He was, however, unable to publish any work explaining and detailing his new language until 1887. When Lingo Internacia Antau was published, it was under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto, which means “Doctor Hopeful.”

Esperanto is based on a combination of Romance and Teutonic language and grammar, with the goal of being easy to learn and politically neutral. While it never became a universal language, its popularity and wide-spread usage is astounding. There are at least several hundred thousand people who speak Esperanto, and it was recognized as an official language by UNESCO in 1954. There are annual meetings, and Zamenhof Day is celebrated among his admirers on Zamenhof’s birthday (December 15).

Zamenhof died on April 14, 1917, in Warsaw, Poland.

3 Comments

  1. For some info about the current situation of Esperanto, see http://uea.org/info/angla.html

  2. The actual name of that first pamphlet proposing Esperanto is — in its English version — “Dr. Esperanto’s International Language, Introduction & Complete Grammar”. There is a free online HTML edition:
    It had also been published in four other languages at the time: Russian, Polish, French, and German.

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