LINGUIST List 4.883

Wed 27 Oct 1993

Disc: Esperanto

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  1. , Esperanto -- easy to learn?
  2. Jacques Guy, Esperanto -- easy to learn?
  3. David Powers, Re: 4.879 Qs: Plurals, Esperanto, Latin, Spanish Syntax

Message 1: Esperanto -- easy to learn?

Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1993 11:26:15 Esperanto -- easy to learn?
From: <Edmund.Grimley-Evanscl.cam.ac.uk>
Subject: Esperanto -- easy to learn?

A good bibliography of experiments with teaching Esperanto in schools
can be found in the booklet "Al nova internacia lingvopolitiko: la
propede^utika valoro de Esperanto" by Symoens, published by Universala
Esperanto-Asocio. English and French translations of that document
should appear soon. I believe that it contains references to
experiments conducted in Hungary and Yugoslavia, where the local
languages are not very similar to English.

There are many documented cases of native speakers of Esperanto, but
most are also bilingual from an early age. I recently saw this
reference to an article in "Linguistics":

 Versteegh, Kees (1993). Esperanto as a first language: language
 acquisition with a restricted input. In _Linguistics_ 31: 539-555

None of volume 31 had reached Cambridge's university library when I
last visited it, so I have not seen that article or either of the other
two articles about Esperanto that allegedly appeared in the same
volume. However I do have a 200-word abstract that I can forward to
anyone who is interested.

<Edmund.Grimley-Evanscl.cam.ac.uk>
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Message 2: Esperanto -- easy to learn?

Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1993 08:43:29 Esperanto -- easy to learn?
From: Jacques Guy <j.guytrl.oz.au>
Subject: Esperanto -- easy to learn?

> From: adamephoenix.Princeton.EDU (Adam Elga)
>
> In article <soc.culture.esperanto FAQ's>, Michael P Urban,
> urbancobra.jpl.nasa.gov writes:
> > Esperanto is also considerably easier to learn than national languages,
> > since its design is far simpler and more regular than such languages.
>
> This is a strong claim. Esperanto seems easy to learn to me, but maybe
> that's just because it is similar to English. Is Esperanto really easier to
> learn for people whose native languages are very different from English?
>

I learnt Esperanto shortly after I was introduced to Latin in high
school (I must have been ten), and after I had a try at teaching
myself Russian (I was nine and I gave up at lesson no.23 of Assimil's
"Le Russe Sans Peine"). Esperanto, then, seemed wonderfully simple
and easy.

Since I have recently developed an interest in artificial languages
(first Lojban, then Klingon) I had reopened my copy of "Teach Yourself
Esperanto" the other day. I was flabbergasted at how complicated Esperanto was.
Why? Because since my school days, of Russian, English and Latin,
Ancient Greek and Spanish, I have learnt (and swiftly forgotten for
lack of practice) a few Austronesian languages. Esperanto is easy,
_relatively_. Once you have been exposed to truly easy languages,
you see it as very complicated and not easy at all to learn. Relatively
speaking again, of course.
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Message 3: Re: 4.879 Qs: Plurals, Esperanto, Latin, Spanish Syntax

Date: Wed 27 Oct 1993 12:10:29 +Re: 4.879 Qs: Plurals, Esperanto, Latin, Spanish Syntax
From: David Powers <powersinf.enst.fr>
Subject: Re: 4.879 Qs: Plurals, Esperanto, Latin, Spanish Syntax

> In article <soc.culture.esperanto FAQ's>, Michael P Urban,
> urbancobra.jpl.nasa.gov writes:
> > Esperanto is also considerably easier to learn than national languages,
> > since its design is far simpler and more regular than such languages.
>
> This is a strong claim. Esperanto seems easy to learn to me, but maybe
> that's just because it is similar to English. Is Esperanto really easier to
> learn for people whose native languages are very different from English?

The claim is probably relatively true, because of the regularity
and the low and predictable inflexion. For the same reason BASIC
English is generally regarded as easy to learn, whatever the
background. But for the languages which are further away, there
would in both cases be new distinctions to learn, and spurious
matches to avoid (viz classification of the mother tongue which
could be incorrectly imported into the second language).

> In the same article, Michael P Urban writes:
> > Esperanto is not the primary language for its speakers, although
> > there _are_ native speakers (`denaskaj parolantoj') of Esperanto
> > who learned to speak it (along with the local language) from
> > their parents.
>
> Is this possible? Can there be a native speaker of Esperanto?

I find it hard to believe that there could be a native speaker
of Esperanto, precisely because it is too regular, and practically
because there is no community of perfect speakers. Language
is dynamic, and any individual language walks a tight rope
stretched between the dual (information theoretically postulated)
pillars of efficacy and efficiency. Efficacy means that it
does achieve communication in all normal situations, and has
a measure of redundancy which allows it to continue to provide
effective communication in the presence of a certain level of
noise. Efficiency means that the more frequent expression
are expressed more briefly, and that length directly reflects
information content.

Since our life, world and experience don't equally weight
all possible utterance (in terms of frequency or information),
there is a tendency to abbreviation, and since Esperanto
doesn't provide a system of abbreviation, the natural forces
of the efficacy and efficiency goals would evolve it into
something which does. This would probably be accompanied
by other typical phenomena for creolization processes.
Of course, if external forces are strong enough, and even
print and media don't seem quite strong enough although
they do seem to have some retarding effect on language change,
they would have an effect on the extent of the evolution.

That's my tuppence worth anyway,
David
--
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 From Nov
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