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Esperanto, a language for a Global Identity Can Esperanto foster European identity?


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Keynote at the conference Global Identities, 1 June 2016, de Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, NL

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Esperanto, a language for a Global Identity Can Esperanto foster European identity?

  1. 1. Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe Esperanto, a language for a Global Identity Can Esperanto foster European identity? Federico Gobbo ⟨Amsterdam / Milano-Bicocca / Torino⟩ ⟨⟩ 1 June 2016 de Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, NL Global Identities: A Conference on Statelessness, Citizenship and Migration 1 of 76
  2. 2. A Retrospective: Why I learnt Esperanto 2 of 76
  3. 3. The linguistic heritage of my family 3 of 76
  4. 4. The importance of science fiction… Cover of my old edition of Stefano Benni’s Terra! SF-novel, from Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus 4 of 76
  5. 5. …and of Tolkien’s Middle Earth! Esperanto edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  6. 6. The influence of Esperanto on Tolkien’s languages Tolkien gave at the Esperanto Congress in Oxford in 1930 entitled A Hobby for the Home, later known as A Secret Vice: Personally I am a believer in an ‘artificial’ language, at any rate for Europe a believer, that is, in its desirability, as the one thing antecedently necessary for uniting Europe, before it is swallowed by non-Europe; […] also I particularly like Esperanto…which is good a description of the ideal artificial language [but] my concern is not with that kind of artificial language at all. (my emphasis) from A Secret Vice, J. R. R. Tolkien 6 of 76
  7. 7. The pleasure of inventing languages [During the war, ] I shall never forget a little man…revealing himself by accident as a devotee [of Esperanto], in a moment of extreme ennui…crowded with (mostly) depressed and wet creatures. We were listening to somebody lecturing on map-reading, or camp-hygiene…rather we were trying to avoid listening…[He] said suddenly in a dreamy ovice: ‘Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix!’ A memorable remark! […] Just consider the splendour of the words! ‘I shall express the accusative case.’ Magnificent! (author’s emphasis) from A Secret Vice, J. R. R. Tolkien 7 of 76
  8. 8. Inventing languages for fantasy role-playing (1980s)… 8 of 76
  9. 9. Nowadays you can roleplay in Esperanto too! Home page of the web site:
  10. 10. 1993: my interest in Esperanto becomes academic Cover of the Esperanto edition of The search for the perfect language, originally in Italian
  11. 11. 1998: my MA thesis on the sociolinguistics of EO I received the Premio Lapenna for the best thesis on Esperanto, with colleague Sabine Fiedler 11 of 76
  12. 12. Since Feb 2014: bijzonder hoogleraar here My official web page in Dutch at the UvA 12 of 76
  13. 13. Why Esperanto is a fascinating language 13 of 76
  14. 14. Esperanto, an offspring of the first globalisation According to Thomas Piketty (2014), the first globalisation happened between 1870 and 1914, when the major European colonizing nation-states conquered the world and established their empires (de jure or de facto). The faith in science and technology to foster the Kantian dream of ‘perpetual peace’ was absolute for many members of the élites – philosophical position called positivism. 14 of 76
  15. 15. Esperanto, an offspring of the first globalisation According to Thomas Piketty (2014), the first globalisation happened between 1870 and 1914, when the major European colonizing nation-states conquered the world and established their empires (de jure or de facto). The faith in science and technology to foster the Kantian dream of ‘perpetual peace’ was absolute for many members of the élites – philosophical position called positivism. Esperanto came out in that moment. 14 of 76
  16. 16. Esperanto as part of the innovations of its time ■ 1865: International Telegraph Union; ■ 1874: Universal Postal Union; ■ 1876: Alexander Graham Bell makes the first phone call; ■ 1884: International Meridian Conference (Greenwich); ■ 1886: the Coca-Cola was born in Atlanta, US; ■ 1887: Zamenhof publishes Esperanto in Warsaw, Poland; ■ 1888: The Kodak camera was born: ‘you press the button - we do the rest’: ■ 1889: inauguration of the Tour Eiffel in Paris; ■ 1894: Pierre de Coubertin restores the Olympic Games; ■ 1900: L’Exposition de Paris: the cinema was born. 15 of 76
  17. 17. The patent of the telephone by A. G. Bell
  18. 18. The cover of the first book of Esperanto, 1887
  19. 19. Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof Born in Białystok, 1859, a town now in Poland – then under the Tsar – Zamenhof was a Jew (Litvak Ashkenazi), bilingual Yiddish (with his mother) and Russian (with his father). He had a twofold dream in his life: to set an ethnic-free bridge across the nations, beyond any kind of wall, through a neutral religion (Hillelism) and a neutral language (Esperanto). 19 of 76
  20. 20. Esperanto as a contact language (Germanic + Romance + Slavic) x regularization = Esperanto
  21. 21. La viro salutas nin ©2014 Stanislavo Belov. Foto de si mem en Fejsbuko
  22. 22. Colour codes adopted here 1. substantives (NP heads) are in blue; 2. adjectives, determiners, numerals (any NP tail) are in cyan; 3. verbs and predications (VP heads) are in red; 4. adverbs and the like (MAdv, V tails) are in orange; 5. affixes (prefixes and suffixes) are in gray; 6. accusative marker (ending in -n) is in green.
  23. 23. Possible descriptions of the photo ■ La viro salutas la publikon. ■ La viro salutas vin. ■ La viro salutas vin afable. ■ La viro salutas vin per ⟨ desegno ⟩ . ■ La viro salutas vin per ⟨ desegno sur ⟨ la nigra tabulo ⟩⟩ . ■ La viro apogas la manon sur ⟨ la muro ⟩ . 23 of 76
  24. 24. Verbs have 6 possible endings. No exceptions 1. -as for present tense; 2. -is for past tense; 3. -os for future tense; 4. -us for conditional; 5. -u for imperative; 6. -i for infinitive. 24 of 76
  25. 25. Ne forgesu la akuzativon!
  26. 26. Esperanto estas regula lingvo ....La ..viro ..salutas ..afable. verbo . artikolo . subjekto . objekto . adverbo De man begroet jullie vriendelijk The man greets you kindly 26 of 76
  27. 27. Just one rule for nouns and adjectives en Esperanto en la nederlanda en la angla granda elefanto een grote olifant a big elephant malgranda elefanto een kleine olifant a small elephant rapida ĉevalo een snel paard a fast horse malrapidaj ĉevaloj langzame paarden slow horses 27 of 76
  28. 28. Granda elefanto kun malgranda elefanto © 2015 Huffington Post
  29. 29. The power of suffixes (example) en Esperanto en la nederlanda en la angla ĉevalo paard horse ĉevalino merrie mare ĉevalido veulen colt ĉevalejo stal stable ĉevalaro een kudde paarden a herd of horses 29 of 76
  30. 30. Familio de ĉevaloj © 2013 Kelly Walkotten on Flickr
  31. 31. Europe is the lullaby of Esperanto 31 of 76
  32. 32. French Esperantists come into the arena Source: Garvía (2015:78)
  33. 33. From Białystok to Paris
  34. 34. Universala Kongreso, 1905 Esperantists from various countries met in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France 34 of 76
  35. 35. From the speech of Zamenhof, 1905 En la malgrandan urbon de la franca marbordo kunvenis homoj el la plej diversaj landoj kaj nacioj, kaj ili renkontas sin reciproke ne mute kaj surde, sed ili komprenas unu la alian, ili parolas unu kun la alia kiel fratoj, kiel membroj de unu nacio. Rough translation in English: In the small town of the French seaside came together persons from the most different countries and nations, and they meet one the other reciprocally not mute and deaf, but they understand one the other, they speak one with the other as brothers, as members of just one nation. 35 of 76
  36. 36. La bela sonĝo de l’ homaro…
  37. 37. … ends with the Great War (1914-1918) © 1915 Louis Raemaekers satirieke kaart van Europa, Het gekkenhuis (oud liedje, nieuwe wijs)
  38. 38. Appeal to the Diplomats, 1915 Will you begin simply to remake and patch up the map of Europe? Will you simply decide that territory A must belong to the nation X and territory B to the nation Y? True, such work you will have to do, but it must be only an insignificant portion of your work; […] in handing over any territory to the people of this or that race, you will always do an injustice to other people who have the same natural rights in respect of that territory. […] It would be best if, instead of various large and small European states, we should some day have proportionally and geographically arranged “United States of Europe”. 38 of 76
  39. 39. Esperanto should reinvent itself after the Great War According to the demographic analysis by Roberto Garvía (2015:100) summarizing the work by the pioneer Tanquist (1927), these are the main motivation in learning Esperanto (US, UK, Germany-Austria):
  40. 40. Examples: Esperanto Movement of the Workers… CC⃝ 1936
  41. 41. …Catholic Esperantists in Austria… CC⃝ 1929
  42. 42. …vegetarians, etc. © 1914 Vegetarano, the official bulletin of the Vegetara Ligo
  43. 43. ‘Vestaĵoj malnovaj’, from: The Great Dictator, 1940 CC⃝ 2014 Vikimedio
  44. 44. Hitler and Stalin against Esperanto © 2014 Dan Mazur. Esperantists
  45. 45. Esperanto today 45 of 76
  46. 46. Esperanto: history and geography There is no Esperanto state or specific territtory. However, we can consider congresses, festivals, and meetings in local clubs as the ‘language territories’ of the language, where the community members gather. This is the geography of Esperanto. The places where these events happen – as well as some places where Esperanto is used on a firm basis – form the geography of Esperanto. The history of Esperanto drives new initiatives, rooted in virtual and real places. 46 of 76
  47. 47. Local clubs around the world
  48. 48. Esperanto lives today: Lille (FR) 2015 World Congress 100 near Boulogne-sur-Mer, 110 years after the 1st one 48 of 76
  49. 49. Une maison de la culture de l’espéranto à Boulogne 49 of 76
  50. 50. The new Esperanto train in Poland source: Facebook page of the Polish government asking for polling
  51. 51. Virtual places: the success of Duolinguo2 screenshot made the 28th of OMay 2016 Approximately 30 persons per day finish the learning tree!
  52. 52. Esperanto between language and culture The fascination of Esperanto comes: 1. internally from the structural character of the language and 2. externally from the community of practice surrounding the language itself, which is used to produce original cultural products (poetry, prose, theater, music, comics, films, etc.). 52 of 76
  53. 53. The four factors that motivates esperantists 1. political factor, for an alternative globalisation; 2. cultural factor, as everybody can contribute to a ethnic-free worldwide culture; 3. cognitive factor, to foster native bilingualism, especially when only one language is at disposal in the family. 4. ICT factor, for geeks and nerds the Esperanto culture fits the culture of open source and free software. 53 of 76
  54. 54. An alternative globalisation is possible Fronte al la nunaj minacoj de malpaco, ekologia krizaro, pliprofundigo de la breĉo inter riĉaj kaj malriĉaj landoj, kultura unuformigo (MakDonaldigo) de la mondo kaj malfortiĝo de la demokratia vivo de la socioj, la alimondisma movado […] senperforte celas alternativan, solidaran tutmondiĝon de la homaj rajtoj, socia justo kaj funda demokratioo. Rough translation in English: With the actual minaces of war, ecological crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor countries, cultural homologation (McDonaldization) of the world and weakening of the democratic life of societies, the movements from the other world [e.g., World Social Forum] aims to a non-violent, different, fair globalisation of human rights, social justice and profound democracy. (my emphasis) José Antonio Vergara (2006)
  55. 55. A poem by Jorge Camacho, 2013 poemo estas kiel ovo; se ĝi venas mem, ellasu ĝin; se ne, do tute ne gravas; sed, se tamen fine ĝi venos, prefere demetu ĝin ronda J Camacho (2013). En la profundo. Mondial: Novjorko. p. 5. Recenzo de N Rašić en Beletra Almanako, 20, Junio 2014 55 of 76
  56. 56. The point of view of the Google Translate team The Google Translate team was actually surprised about the high quality of machine translation for Esperanto... For Esperanto, the number of existing translations is comparatively small. German or Spanish, for example, have more than 100 times the data; other languages on which we focus our research efforts have similar amounts of data as Esperanto but don’t achieve comparable quality yet. Esperanto was constructed such that it is easy to learn for humans, and this seems to help automatic translation as well. Thorsten Brants, Research Scientist, Google Translate 56 of 76
  57. 57. A living language has new words A neologism that is entering ordinary register of Esperanto
  58. 58. A mother tongue mainly spoken by fathers The fact that Esperanto can be acquired as a first language can be regarded as a further proof that it has all the basic properties of a natural language. The use of Esperanto as a family language may thus mean it is used between the spouses, or between the parents (or one of the parents) and the children, who thus become native speakers. There exist even second-generation and third-generation native speakers, though other languages are handed down in such families in parallel with Esperanto, and there are no compact native speech communities. All first-language speakers of Esperanto are at least bilingual, many of them even trilingual, and practically all of them use another language more often than Esperanto in their adult lives. (my emphasis) Source: Lindstedt (2010)
  59. 59. Can Esperanto foster European identity? 59 of 76
  60. 60. Is this picture right?
  61. 61. A pilot experiment I asked Esperanto families living in Europe if they feel European identity somehow and what does it mean. This was done through a mailing list used by Esperanto families to coordinate themselves. I got 13 responses, that I will keep anonymous. All answers were in Esperanto. Translations in English are mine unless stated otherwise. Quality analysis only was done. Some details are changed for privacy concerns. 61 of 76
  62. 62. A first answer “On my side, I do not have identity. I simply am. Because of my birthplace, I am Xish, so I am Xish and European. Similarly, I am a white man, bald, or a mammal. I am such. Of course, when I am with non-Xish, I notes the differences with Xish people. With non-Europeans, I note the ‘Europehood’. I would feel myself cosmopolitan, when I meet an extraterrestrial, until when it will happen... For the family, I do not like too much when they teach the national anthems, or when they paint national flags on the face.” 62 of 76
  63. 63. Sport-like and linguistic feelings… Some informants argues that they feel Europeans like in the World Cup: in a competition against Americas or Asia, they cheer on Europe. “Nothing to serious to be called ‘European identity’, though.” (or: the question is meaningless) “If you do not know English, French and German you cannot feel European. You have to travel a lot spending time to live in different countries. Multilingualism shape European identity.” (note: no apart mention of Esperanto) 63 of 76
  64. 64. …and a family answer 4-member family: father from Sweden, mother from Bosnia. They live in Norway. They feel that Europe is wider than the EU. Children (11 and 8) feel to be Norwegian-Bosnian. When asked directly: “Do you feel to be a European?” “No, but I am an Esperantist.” 64 of 76
  65. 65. Context-based answers… “It depends on the context,” said a French woman married with a Hungarian, living in Luxembourg. “When I cook, for example, I am French.” “I feel European with non-Europeans, for differences. But I do not adhere to the European ideology, when it is warlike and imperialistic. I also feel cosmopolitan.” said a German woman. “We are lucky being Europeans as now we fight with words, not with weapons anymore among us,” says a Belgian. “When we see refugees, we cannot not think that we are so lucky.” 65 of 76
  66. 66. …and one context-free answer “Being an Esperantist implies that there should be no European identity. Human beings are one big family. The warlike spirit came from Europe and was exported everywhere in the other continents. EU did not deserve the Nobel Prize for Peace.” 66 of 76
  67. 67. A man in Luxembourg 1/2 (original in English) “I’m a German and Argentinian, grew up mainly in Germany, studied in the UK, and am now living in Luxembourg. At age 16 I started learning Esperanto, which I’m using a lot since then, and through which I have made friends with people from all over the world, including many European countries. I identify more as a European and a world citizen than as a German. I am very happy that the European Union has brought peace to us Europeans, and that it it makes it possible for us to move freely in most of our home continent without showing a passport or having to change money. But I am also afraid that the current conglomeration of crises could bring about steps backwards.” 67 of 76
  68. 68. A man in Luxembourg 2/2 “With my children I speak mainly Esperanto and sometimes German. My main motive for speaking Esperanto with them is so that they can already as children participate with me and my wife in the international and culturally rich Esperanto community, which is enriching our lives a lot. Since my half Russian, half German wife speaks Russian with them, and since the main language of their environment is Luxembourgish, the children grow up speaking four languages, […] Our six­year­old, on the other hand, already understands that Esperanto is a special language without territory, and is proud that she can sometimes explain this to adults who don’t know about Esperanto.” 68 of 76
  69. 69. A young woman in Luxembourg 1/2 “I am 20 years old and a native Esperanto speaker […] My mother is French and my father is Hungarian, so they spoke their respective languages to me; also, living in the Netherlands, I learned Dutch from my nanny from the age of three months. Where would a fourth language have fit? Having met at an Esperanto meeting, my parents spoke the language to each other, and brought me with them to international meetings where I heard it spoken. Sometimes we had guests, sometimes we were guests. They made a point of not actively teaching me Esperanto or encouraging me to speak it, calling it their secret language. I learned it anyway.” 69 of 76
  70. 70. A young woman in Luxembourg 2/2 “How does this relate to European identity? I think I was doubly lucky, because I had Esperanto and I also went to the European School of Luxembourg. In these schools, pupils with origins from all over Europe grow up together. I think this makes us very open-minded and multicultural, and it definitely makes you feel European, especially as many of us – like me – cannot pinpoint one country where they ‘come from’. Once a German asked me if I was German and I said ‘yes, if you want’. After all I speak German fluently, am familiar with German culture and I have a lot of German friends, so why not? Sometimes I say I am kind of Dutch, just not on paper. Sometimes I say I’m a French-Hungarian from the Benelux. Sometimes I say I’m European.” 70 of 76
  71. 71. An evaluation The European feelings of Esperanto speakers are variegate. Common traits are a refusal of military and imperialistic behaviour, a ‘ludic’ or somehow ‘light’ sense of territorial identity, sometimes linked to Europe, sometimes not. Esperanto in itself does not bring special values of European identity, at least in its present situation. But Esperanto really is a vehicle of a practical cosmopolitanism, a vehicle for an alternative Global Identity. 71 of 76
  72. 72. So, yes, this picture is right…
  73. 73. But this picture is also right…
  74. 74. And this one too!
  75. 75. Acknowledgement of funding MIME – Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe The research leading to these results has received fund- ing from the European Community’s Seventh Frame- work Programme under grant agreement No. 613344 (Project MIME). UEA – Universala Esperanto-Asocio (Rotterdam, NL) The author is appointed as holder of the Special Chair in Interlinguistics and Esperanto at the University of Amsterdam on behalf of UEA. The content and opin- ions expressed here are the author’s ones and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UEA. 75 of 76
  76. 76. Thanks for your attention! Dankon por via atento! Questions? Comments?  ⟨⟩  @goberiko  federico.gobbo  +FedericoGobbo  http:/ CC⃝ BY:⃝ $ ⃝ c⃝ Federico Gobbo 2016 76 of 76