Monday, August 12, 2013

Esperanto: The World's Most Popular Constructed Language, Part 3

Over the past two days we've looked at the creation and history, and then the application and usage of Esperanto. Now that we've set the scene, we'll be having a look at how Esperanto is put together.

As a conlang, Esperanto can't really be classified as belonging to any other language families. Instead, Esperanto is classified as an International Auxiliary Language. Though the language was heavily influenced by Indo-European languages, taking on the phonemic properties of Slavic languages and the lexicon of Romance and Germanic languages, Esperanto has drawn heavy criticism for being too Eurocentric.

La Espero, a poem known as the
"hymn of Esperanto".
When speaking Esperanto, the stress is usually on the penultimate syllable, much like Italian and in poetry. The phonology is particularly interesting as the relationship between letters and phonemes is direct, meaning that every letter used in Esperanto has only one phoneme that it could represent. This was particularly important to Esperanto's creator, L. L. Zamenhof, who declared the rule as "one letter, one sound".

The phonology is also very similar to Polish and Belarusian, which is wholly unsurprising given that Zamenhof himself was born in Bialystok, where most of the population spoke Yiddish and were either Poles or Belarusians.

The relation between letters and phonemes is as closely related to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as possible. The language currently features 23 consonants, 5 vowels, 2 semi-vowels, and 6 diphthongs. This is reasonably low given that, depending on the dialect, English speakers can have up to 20 vowel sounds.

Having covered the phonology of Esperanto, tomorrow we'll be continuing our evaluation of Esperanto by looking at the Esperanto grammar and lexicon.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4