The Contemporary Esperanto Speech Community

Adelina Solis received her bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Scripps College in 2011. This paper was written as part of her fulfillment of her degree. Since then, she has completed a 10-month term as an English teacher in Vietnam through the Fulbright program. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian, and has studied French, Russian, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language. Beyond languages, her interests include art, creative writing, and steak.

Abstract

This study examines the contemporary Esperanto speech community. I begin with a review of the history of universal language movements, the history of language creation, and the development of Esperanto in particular. Then, drawing from 13 interviews with Esperanto speakers and preexisting literature, I address: who comprises the Esperanto speech community, the norms adhered to and ideologies held by members of the speech community, reasons for membership in the speech community, and the speech community’s objectives. Findings show that anyone who speaks the language may be a member of the speech community if they self-identify that way. Speakers are found all over the world, and can be of any age and gender.

Though Dr. Zamenhof’s (Esperanto’s creator) goal for world peace is not critical to the ideology of many contemporary Esperanto speakers, most value the international exchange that participation in the community provides. Some people learn Esperanto because of its founding ideology, while others do because they recognize that with it they can access more people and more information than they could if they did not speak Esperanto. To maximize Esperanto’s effectiveness, it is important to maximize the number of speakers, though current Esperanto speakers disagree about the best way to make this happen.

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