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The language ideology of Esperanto


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Presented at the CLOW2 in Turin, May 2016.

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The language ideology of Esperanto

  1. 1. Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe The language ideology of Esperanto from the world language problem to balanced multilingualism Federico Gobbo ⟨Amsterdam / Milano-Bicocca / Torino⟩ ⟨⟩ 5-6 May 2016 University of Turin, Italy CLOW2 1 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  2. 2. Introduction
  3. 3. What is Esperanto? Esperanto is a planned language, i.e. a language that violates the priority of orality (Lyons) because a single man (or a committee) writes its normative variety before to form a community of practice. Ludwig Lejzer Zamenhof, an Ashkenazi Jew living in the Russian Empire (mainly in nowadays Poland), launched his lingvo internacia in 1887. Several International Auxiliary Language (IAL) were proposed since then until the WW2, but only Esperanto became relevant from a sociolinguistic point of view. 3 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  4. 4. How many people speak Esperanto? From: Gobbo (2015).4 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  5. 5. Is Esperanto a contested language? Strictly speaking, it is not, because: ■ it is not considered a “dialect” or “patois” of any national language; ■ it is not an endangered language, accordint to the Language Atlas of Unesco; ■ unlike most languages, 99% of its speakers are not learning Esperanto during childhood within a family, but voluntarily as an L2; ■ the diatopic variable is far less important than in contested languages (there is no substantial difference between an Esperanto fluent speaker of Japan or England). 5 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  6. 6. No, it is not, but… However, it shares some problems with contested languages, such as: ■ it is not considered a full-fledge language, not only by laymen but also in several linguistic and academic contexts; ■ being a contact language from Romance, Germanic and Slavic elements, it has a high degree of Abstand (distance) with all national languages of the Old World; ■ its visibility in the public sphere is very low, often people get surprized that it is (still) a living language; ■ its formal status on a regional and national level is very low (although on an international level it has some recognition, see below) 6 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  7. 7. The tradition of Esperanto: one language, several ideologies
  8. 8. In the beginning was the First Book (1887)
  9. 9. From Russia to France (1900) From: Garvía (2015).
  10. 10. Declaration of Esperantism, 1905 ■ 1. Esperantism is the endeavour to spread throughout the entire world the use of this neutral, human language which, “not intruding upon the personal life of peoples and in no way aiming to replace existing national languages”, would give to people of different nations the ability to understand each other […] All other ideals or hopes tied with Esperantism by any Esperantist is his or her purely private affair, for which Esperantism is not responsible. […] ■ 4.Esperanto has no lawgiving authority and is dependent on no particular person. All opinions and works of the creator of Esperanto have, similar to the opinions and works of every other esperantist, an absolutely private quality. […] ■ 5. An Esperantist is a person who knows and uses the language Esperanto with complete exactness, for whatever aim he uses it for. […] (my emphasis) 10 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  11. 11. Being an Esperantist: Zamenhof and the pioneers Zamenhof’s ideology treats languages as tools of communication, and communication as a tool for improving human welfare. [This implies] that the peoples of the world have much in common, so international communication will contribute to friendship and peace, rather than animosity and war (Jordan 1987, my emphasis). Esperanto outlived its creator not because of structural perfection, but because of […] a community which linked the language to nonlinguistic ideas (Corsetti 1981, my emphasis). 11 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  12. 12. La bela sonĝo de l’ homaro…
  13. 13. …katolika (1903)…
  14. 14. …vegetarana (1908)…
  15. 15. The “neutral language” of UEA (1908) In 1908 Hector Hodler founded the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (UEA) as the “Red Cross of the Soul” in Geneva, CH.
  16. 16. Hitler and Stalin against Esperanto From: Mazur (2014).
  17. 17. The reaction of several Esperantists…
  18. 18. …and the tragic result: the “dangerous language”
  19. 19. After Auschwitz: the need to define neutralism again
  20. 20. The new UEA after WW2: 1954 Since the aftermath of WW2, the centre of the Esperanto Movement became UEA, and thanks to the work by Ivo Lapenna UEA started to be in “Consultative arrangements with UNESCO 1962 Category B”, after the Montevideo Resolution IV.4.422-4224 (1954) in favour of Esperanto because its results “correspond with the aims and ideals of Unesco”. Lapenna, in his Esperanto en perspektivo (1974) argues that the acceptance of a single national language for international communication is irrealistic, as the other nations will not accept it. At the international level, multilingualism is considered a problem and Esperanto its solution. 20 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  21. 21. The Esperanto generation of the late 1960s Since 1956, a distinct junulara movado “youth movement” formed inside UEA with a definite association, called TEJO. En 1969 in their meeting young Esperantists signed the Declaration of Tyresö (SE; my translation from Esperanto, my emphasis): If we apply with consistence the concept of conserving the integrity of individuals, you will condemn linguistic and cultural discriminations in any form, and also the so-called solution of the language problem, which is based on the discrimination, and we find that until now we pay not enough attention to the destruction of cultural and linguistic background of many peoples. This destruction is nothing else than a tool of linguistic imperialism. 21 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  22. 22. Esperanto for interethnic relations (1972) The magazine Etnismo was founded in 1972, and in 1978 a distinct “international committee for ethnic freedom” (IKEL) was formed. From the first issue of Etnismo (my translation from Esperanto, my emphasis): The struggle against linguistic discrimination in no way can limit itself to state languages, rather it should consider at the same time, if it is sincere, the unfortunate languages of ethnic minorities within the states. The Esperanto language ideology for the first time considers not only the international level, but also the national and subnational levels. 22 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  23. 23. Multilingualism and Esperanto: a difficult relation In the 1970-1980 years, the Esperantists of the “Soviet school” did not take part to the struggle against linguistic imperialism, emphasing that ‘international’, ‘interethnic’, ‘global’ languages and Esperanto can coexist in harmony (Pietiläinen 2010). Moreover, the Manifesto of Rauma (FI) signed by young Esperantists wanted to put the emphasis on the Esperanto community over the Esperanto Movement. In particular, the role of English in the emerging globalization in the 1980s could not be underestimated by the new generation of Esperantists, who did see the conceptual frame “Esperanto vs. English” untenable. 23 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  24. 24. From the Manifesto of Rauma 1/2 The signers find a contradiction in the attitude of Esperantists, almost a conflict between our Superego and Ego: our Superego makes us preach to the others on some myths – L2 for all / English is our enemy / UN should adopt Esperanto / etc – and praise too much the language, even in an unfair way, in interviews; at the same time, between ourselves, we enjoy and apply Esperanto according to what it really is, without any regard of the slogans of the Primals [pioneers]. 24 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  25. 25. From the Manifesto of Rauma 2/2 We believe, that […] the falling of English is neither a task nor a concern of Esperantists: finally English plays the role of auxiliary language only, analogously to French in its time […]: Zamenhof never proposed to the Movement to fight against French, because he had in mind another, more valuable, alternative role for Esperanto. […] Esperantisticity is almost the same as belonging to a self-elected, diasporic, linguistic minority. 25 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  26. 26. 1980-1990s: the debate on raŭmismo The Manifesto of Rauma has the merit of opening the issue of what does Esperanto-kulturo mean. In fact, original and translated prose, narrative, theatre, pop / rock / rap / raggae / etc. music is produced in the language by its speakers for its speakers, but without so much attention in the documents for the “external” world. Being a raŭmisto now means “an Esperantist who cares (much) more to the community than the Movement”, except of a small group that hopelessly tries to form an “Esperanto nation” based on the diasporic stateless concept. This is de facto rejected by the vast majority of Esperanto speakers. 26 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  27. 27. 1990s: rethink Esperanto! In the early 1990s two major events changed the worldwide situation: ■ the fall of the USSR; ■ the invention of the WWW. The role of UEA as a bridge across the Iron Curtain did not have any sense anymore; a ideological rethinking was again needed. 27 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  28. 28. 1996: Linguistic Rights and Esperanto In 1996, June, the World Commission on Linguistic Rights, “a non-official, consultative body made up of representatives of non-governmental organizations and other organizations working in the field of linguistic law”, signed the Universal Declaration on Linguistic Rights, under the auspices of UNESCO. A long text (14 pages) of 52 Articles. In 1996, July, officials of UNESCO and attendees of the World Congress of Esperanto drafted the Prague Manifesto, where linguistic rights were put into an Esperanto perspective, reframing the ideology in a changing world. A short text (2 pages) of 7 points only. 28 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  29. 29. From the Prague Manifesto 1/3 ■ 1. Democracy. […] Although, like any language, Esperanto is not perfect, it greatly exceeds all rivals in the sphere of equitable global communication. ■ 2. Transnational education. Any ethnic language is linked to a certain culture and nation or group of nations. […] The student who studies Esperanto learns about a world without limits, in which every country is like a home. ■ 3. Pedagogical Efficiency. Only a small percentage of those who study a foreign language begin to master it. Full understanding of Esperanto is achievable within a month of study. […] 29 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  30. 30. From the Prague Manifesto 2/3 ■ 4. Multilingualism. The Esperanto community is one of the few worldwide linguistic communities whose members are, without exception, bi- or multilingual. […] In multiple cases this leads to the knowledge and love of several languages and generally to broader personal horizons. ■ 5. Linguistic Rights. […] In the Esperanto community, the speakers of a language, large or small, official or nonofficial, meet on neutral terms, thanks to a reciprocated will to compromise. This equilibrium between linguistic rights and responsibilities provides a precedent for developing and evaluating other solutions to language inequalities and conflict. We assert that policies of communication and development, if not based on respect and support for all languages, condemn to extinction the majority of the word’s languages. […] 30 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  31. 31. From the Prague Manifesto 3/3 ■ 6. Linguistic Diversity. The national governments tend to consider the grand diversification of world languages as barriers to communication and development. For the Esperanto community, however, linguistic diversity is a constant and indispensable source of enrichment. Therefore, every language, like every living thing, is inherently valuable and worthy of protection and support. ■ 7. Human Emancipation Every language liberates and imprisons its speakers, giving to them the power to communicate among themselves while barring them from communication with others. […] We assert that the exclusive use of national languages inevitably raises barriers to the freedoms of expression, communication, and association. 31 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  32. 32. Declarations and Manifestos: after Prague The merit of the Prague Manifesto is to reconcile the Declaration of Tyresö and the Manifesto of Rauma extracting the best points without the extremes. The Prague Manifesto also has the merit to link the language ideology of Esperanto with the linguistic rights, also of minority languages without any doubt. So, no more “one world language problem” (la monda lingvo-problemo) but “language problems” (plural!) where Esperanto can play a role. There are no more explicit ideological changes after the Prague Manifesto. After 20 years, the role of Esperanto for balanced multilingualism entered the commonsensical knowledge of the Esperanto speaker (Caligaris 2016). 32 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  33. 33. An example: a recent UEA action at the UN In 2015 the UN launched the programme of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the years 2015-30. The 21-22 April 2016 there was a symposium on languages and the SDGs, organized by Humphrey Tonkin (Hartford), former President of UEA, under the auspices of UEA. Diplomats, scholars, and activists of NGOs participated. Languages (at any level) are never explicitly mentioned in the Objectives, as pointed out by several participants (among the others, Suzanne Romaine, Rosemary Salomone, Timothy Reagan). No apart mention of Esperanto was made, unlike Lapenna’s epoque. 33 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  34. 34. Goals 2030: a hot topic for Esperantists Cover of the official magazine of UEA, November 2015.
  35. 35. Where are linguistic rights here? From: UN official web site of SDGs.
  36. 36. The 21st century: Esperanto and digital communication
  37. 37. Esperanto as an alternative globalization For the so-called “digital natives” globalization is a matter of fact and an everyday practice, especially through the tools of digital communication, such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) but not only – think to Wikipedia and Skype. Esperanto becomes the (possible) vehicle for a better globalization, fair and equitable. New learners often see themselves as merely Esperanto users: Esperanto is a linguistic tool to perform things that they already do – for example, travelling. 37 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  38. 38. Esperanto as a low-cost language Traditionally, Esperanto courses are given for free or at a very low cost. This fits perfectly with the idea of internet as the (virtual) land of freedom. Moreover, the effort to learn Esperanto is considerably low compared to natural languages, according to anecdotical evidence. New learners nowadays come across Esperanto for fortuity or serendipity, not through the traditional structures of the Esperanto Movement, that is the lokaj kluboj, local groups. The ideological reflection upon Esperanto is not known, nor they show too much interest, at least at the first glance. 38 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  39. 39. Anecdotical evidence of how people come to Esperanto ■ when installing free software (e.g. Linux distro), the language choice of ‘Esperanto’ is next to ‘English’; ■ the language is mentioned within “conlanging”, aside Hollywood languages such as Star Trek’s Klingon or Dothraki of the Games of Thrones; ■ looking for information in Wikipedia shows that an Esperanto version is at disposal. ■ Collectors of comics (e.g. Tin Tin, Asterix, Pondus) can find that an Esperanto version does exist. …then, invariably, they google it. The Duolingo English-Esperanto course is an incredible success: each day 30 people fill the learning tree, the majority from the US (Löwenstein 2016). 39 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  40. 40. The largest Esperanto classroom ever
  41. 41. Beyond linguistic rights? The Manifest of Prague is really a great ensemble of ideas, but it cannot be the absolute yardstick of our action. […] Esperanto is far more than a remedy for democratizing the communication and defend the language rights of the peoples. […] It can be a tool for a worldwide network of solidary economy and fair commerce. […] We cannot anymore think and act as human beings who know nothing of the crude problems of our world, in any field. […] Preaching of linguistic rights and fair and democratic communication will be heared stronger and larger when we will be engaged in the solution of the very crude social problems of our suffering world. (Fabrício Valle, editor-in-chief of Esperanto, Nov 2015, my emphasis) 41 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  42. 42. 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) One of the authors’ is appointed as holder of the Spe- cial Chair in Interlinguistics and Esperanto at the Uni- versity of Amsterdam on behalf of UEA. The content and opinions expressed here are the author’s ones and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UEA. 42 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo
  43. 43. Thank you! Dankon! Questions? Comments?  ⟨⟩  @goberiko  federico.gobbo  +FedericoGobbo  http:/ 43 (cc) 2016 F Gobbo