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Title: The Grammar of Esperanto. A Corpus-Based Description
Written By: Christopher Gledhill
Series Title: Languages of the World/Materials 190

This book provides a detailed description of Esperanto for linguists who
are not familiar with the language. Its main aim is to demonstrate that
Esperanto not only has complex system of etymology and word formation, but
also of syntax and phraseology. Another aim is to determine to what extent
the language has extended beyond its original conception in 1887. This work
presents for the first time statistical and contextual analysis from a
representative computer-based text archive using the latest techniques of
corpus linguistics. Esperanto is an ideal object of study for linguists
since it is the most widespread and best known example of an artificial
language. In theory, Esperanto represents a regular, easily assimilated
language designed for international use. Yet the language also came to be
used socially among fellow enthusiasts, intellectually as a literary forum
and politically for propaganda, especially in the communist era.
Conservative estimates indicate 50,000 speakers, which is large by minority
language standards. Yet Esperanto's status as a second language and
ideological project has only recently attracted socio-linguistic fieldwork
(Stocker 1995) and the language has undergone almost no critical linguistic
analysis. Traditional descriptions point out that some syntactic elements
of Esperanto are a priori rational systems which resemble few other
languages, while most morpho-lexical elements are a posteriori and resemble
donor languages such as Latin. Popular accounts of Esperanto rely on the
'16 rules' which have led to the misconception that Esperanto has a minimal
grammar. However, in the natural development of the language some original
creole-like characteristics have emerged beyond Zamenhof's original design.
For example, the uncertainty over aspect or tense in verbs, the increasing
use of adverbs and prepositional-adverbs, or variable theme orientation in
compound nouns. These processes are evidence of evolution in the language,
although some have led to conflicts within the movement. There is
particular debate about the degree to which it is possibile to control the
language of what is essentially a discourse-community as well as a speech
community (Swales 1990). All these factors make the language difficult to
categorize according to traditional formulae. This volume outlines a
linguistic description of the particularities of the language, from the
morphosyntax to elements of phraseolgy. The description is based on a
computational analysis of a written text archive (a corpus of 350 000
words). The corpus analysis reveals consistent patterns of phraseology
which point to linguistic richness and dynamism. These patterns belie the
receivced wisdom that artificial languages cannot really display natural
complexity. [A version of this text in Esperanto can be seen on LINCOM'S
web site]

Publication Year: 1999
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Review: Not available for review. If you would like to review a book on The LINGUIST List, please login to view the AFR list.
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Esperanto
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Click here to see the original emailed issue.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 3895862177
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 100pp
Prices: ---- USD 44 / DM 62