Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Esperanto, from my point of view.

D: ah, Espo, how do I love thee? Not very much at all.
I already noted the 'ranto' site. It goes into details. In the notes on this book, I noted the following.
1) difficult consonant clusters. E.g KN in "knabo", or boy. kuh-nah...
2) some letters are actually composite consonants
3) the system requires diacritics
4) I get confused by seemingly familiar English letters with different sounds
5) the need for agreement between grammatical elements is bewildering
6) it mentions word order but indicates grammatical element via infixes - no need.
7) the stress system is ambiguous - timing or not? New Zealand English is hard to follow due to a different stress system. No stress system at all might be preferable.
8) a whole lotta homophones. Dieto. Diet-o for noun. OR: di for god, -et- for tiny, -o noun. Either a diet or a demigod. The list goes on and on. This is due to not carefully considering how various syllables, when strung together, will make both pronunciation and meaning unclear.
9) a failure to keep common terms brief. His idea to use mal- for "opposite of" as a way to reduce the need to memorize vocabulary was only somewhat clever.
10) a complete ignorance of biomechanics. Many sounds get blurred via co-articulation. Just advising one to carefully sound out each sound ignores the fact that normal human speech happens at a fast continuous pace.
11) generally, a failure to use one system to the full extent possible and to stick to it. Often, he uses a new word when a variation of an existing one would be more sensible and easier. It is not coherent. Alternatively, sometimes he needs more nuance.

About the inventor:
"Dr. Ludovic Lazarus (Ludwik Lejzer) Zamenhof (December 15, 1859 - April 14, 1917) was a Polish-Jew ophthalmologist, philologist and the initiator of Esperanto, the most widely spoken constructed language to date. His native languages were Russian and Yiddish, but he also spoke Polish and German fluently. Later he learned French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and English, and he also had an interest in Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian."
D: like Volapuk, Espo had serious flaws. The original inventor, feeling his project was complete, like a proud father, resisted change. This led to a schism in the movement.
The project was somehow viewed as complete despite being a work in progress.

Lacking UPSID study data back then, he had no grasp of what was globally easy and difficult for language speakers to learn. Since Esperanto was being promoted as an auxiliary language, one must assume many adopters were already adult. Without the right language background (Eastern dialect of Polish!), this language is prohibitively difficult.
" A suggested compromise phonology for Lang25 would consist of the 20 consonants identified by the UPSID survey and the 5 vowels found in Spanish, Japanese and other tongues. It so happens that the most universal words for things within the common experience of the whole of humanity tend to fall within this phonetic range."

D: the only safe syllable construction is CV (consonant - vowel). Even CVC and CCV are tricky.
Esperanto made something of a comeback in the '60s/'70s by being associated with the international peace movement. However, today there are only a few still using it. Most people have never even heard of it.
For kicks, you might want to rent an early William Shatner film called "Inkubo" which is entirely in Esperanto.

A logical analysis of reflexive usages in French shows, however, that this simplicity is an illusion and that, so far from helping the foreigner, it is more calculated to bother him. "
Edward Sapir


Dino Snider said...

1/3 of the way thru the book there is belsono. I tried to look it up in the dictionary, but could not find it. i gradually puzzled out that this is a compound noun of bel and son. Pretty sound, basically. However, since syllable construction rules allow it, this could as easily have been an unfamiliar vocabulary item with a belson base. what is missing is a brief and powerful preposition system to make for nuanced compound nouns. 7 will have one...

dino snider said...

The best example of thoughtless voiced/voiceless letter choice, and difficult articulation, is "akvo" for water.
The K/G pair selects the voiceless form.
The F/V pair selects the voiced.
Whereas agvo or akfo would be easier by harmonizing voiced or voiceless.

dino snider said...

There is an even LONGER list of Espo homophones (same spelling too) than at the Ranto site - see the archive.
I'd say my relationship to Espo is love-hate, but dislike-hate is more accurate.