| We will control|
what you think with
|Here's how we do it|
Esperanto is a constructed international auxiliary language (auxlang) invented in the late 1800s by Polish writer Ludwig Lazar Zamenhof as a replacement for other "international" languages such as English, French, and Latin, with the intent of creating a language with no attachments to any existing body. The name is from the pseudonym that Zamenhof used in his original publication covering the language, meaning "one who hopes"; the original title given by Zamenhof for the language was simply a descriptive name, "Lingvo Internacia" (international language).
The language has something of the status of a grassroots movement. It rose to prominence in the aftermath of Johann Schleyer's Volapük (which survives today mostly in a few old books and a silly Russian slang word for a form of chatroom Cyrillic transliteration); Esperanto filled the same need as Volapük as a politically neutral auxiliary language, but eliminated much of the grammatical complexity, bizarre word mutations, and confusing pronunciation that had decimated the international auxiliary language community. Esperanto is still thought to be the most successful auxlang ever invented, but no real statistics exists on the number of speakers it commands. Esperanto is one of four constructed languages to be issued an ISO language code, receiving the designation: "eo".
The language itself is fundamentally Indo-European in vocabulary, and grammar, with a strong bias towards simplification. The word list is drawn (somewhat arbitrarily) from most of the languages prominent in international discourse at the time, notably English, German, French, Latin, Russian, Yiddish, and a bit of Polish. Many previous auxlang proposals had focused primarily on a single language for grammar and vocabulary.
 But why is it here?
There's a fair amount of criticism surrounding the language and movement (to the point where Esperanto speakers were actively persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during World War II). There is also a fair amount of controversy over exactly how the language is supposed to be developed; the project forked early on, with a competing language, Ido, created by Esperantists who felt quite strongly that the language's grammar needed simplification. Many Esperantists consider Zamenhof's work to be immutable; the practical reason given is to preserve intercommunicability and prevent the development of dialects, though it's not uncommon to find a fundamentalist mindset and even a bit of persecution complex among some speakers.
Esperanto is also held up as an example of how not to design a language by some. Zamenhof was not a trained linguist and therefore made a number of choices that, even where they exist in natural languages, are often considered unacceptable in a constructed language with pretensions of idealism:
- The primary document of the language, the Fundamento, is written as 16 rules that take for granted a knowledge of the grammar of any of several Western European languages. (Actual systematic grammars of Esperanto are quite long and weirdly ambiguous due to Zamenhof's failure to allow for numerous common constructions, including direct/indirect object combinations.)
- The two-case noun system is seen as overly complex for languages such as English, French, or Chinese with no real noun case marking at all.
- The vocabulary and affix systems are pervasively sexist, requiring an explicit suffix (-ino) for anything obviously female. Words with inherently female meanings are rare to nonexistent, even to the point of using patrino, a derivative of the masculine patro, for "mother." An explicit masculine suffix, -iĉo, is used by some, but is nonstandard; it is unclear whether singular inclusive language is even possible in strictly standard Esperanto. In plural speech the prefix "ge" can be used to describe a gender-neutral group (e.g. "gepatroj", parents); one could arguably use "ge" with singulars to indicate whether any particular gender might fill the roll, but it is not standard.
- The phonology is highly influenced by Central European languages such as German and Polish. While the vowel system is simple, there is a fairly high number of consonants and somewhat difficult consonant clusters. Also, it's only in Central Europe than v is considered easier to pronounce than w even after another consonant; almost anywhere else, the opposite is true.
- The Esperanto alphabet has five consonants -- ĉ ĝ ĥ ĵ and ŝ -- with a circumflex diacritic over them (usually replaced with a -h- or -x- in ASCII text). This is highly nonstandard typographically, borrowing from and conforming to no system used in any natural language orthography standard.
On the whole, Esperantists are mostly sane and well-meaning people. However, the Auxlang community is known to be rather quick to fight and stir up trouble, and the Esperanto community, being the largest single portion of it, is no exception. It is a relatively easy language for just about anyone to learn, though speaking it is not typically as easy as many proponents may claim.
 See also
- Lojban, another artificial language.
- Esperanto.net—Language information in English
- Vikipedio: Wikipedia in Esperanto
- Justin B. Rye's extensive fisking of the Esperanto language and culture
- Rebuttal to Rye's site by Claude Piron
- On a Critic of Esperanto by Claude Piron
- ↑ from two words "vola" and "pük", both taken from English meaning "World" and "speech"... no I'm serious.
- ↑ Yes, it literally killed every tenth new language... it was that horrible. Like listening to Vogon poetry in Ubbi Dubbi.
- ↑ The others are Volapük (vo), Interlingua (ia) and Interlingue/Occidental (ine)
- ↑ Zamenhof spoke Russian at home and studied in that language, too. Esperanto is mostly influenced by English, French, Russian, German and found regularity from languages as diverse as Lithuanian, Finno-Ugric languages, and Turkic languages.
- ↑ The only Esperanto word of note with a Polish origin is "kolbaso" (sausage), but much of the grammar reflected Polish idioms
- ↑ Volapük used heavily modified English words and Latin grammar, Universalglot used the Spanish/Italian-like romance languages but not Latin itself, Communicationssprache used French, and Solresol is based on no natural language.
- ↑ Hitler considered Esperantists to be part of the International Jewish Conspiracy (as he explained in Mein Kampf), and therefore needed to be destroyed.
- ↑ While this is true of many natural languages as well, the issue is whether such a situation is appropriate in a constructed language with an explicitly political, arguably left-wing mission.
- ↑ In this regard, Esperanto takes minimalism to an extreme: the "proper" word for "bad" is literally "not good" (malbona). As such "patrino" is suffering the same fate; however, many feel that such a situation is still unacceptable.
- ↑ The letter ŭ has a breve diacritic, not a circumflex diacritic; in ASCII text, it is usually replaced with a w, but can also be rendered as ux.
- ↑ So they say