Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Initiator, L. L. Zamenhof

The Initiator, L. L. Zamenhof

Esperanto, the most successful of all international constructed languages, was created by Polish polyglot and eye doctor Ludvic Lazarus Zamenhof. In 1887, he published his work "Lingvo internacia"(International language) under the pseudonym 'Doctor Esperanto', 'Esperanto' meaning 'one who is hoping'. The book included a description of the language and a textbook for it.

On December 15th, 1859, Zamenhof was born in Bialystok, a town in Poland (which was then ruled by Russia). The town's population consisted of four big ethnic groups: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews. Zamenhof was saddened by the many quarrels between these groups.

He believed, that the biggest cause of hatred was not being able understand one another. This inability to understand in turn was caused by lack of a common language, which would play the role of a neutral means of communication between people belonging to different nations and speaking different languages.
An international language for communication

Already as a student at a secondary school in Warsaw, Zamenhof tried to create an international language - but it had a very rich and complex grammar. When he learned English (along with German, French, Latin and Greek), he decided that the international language had to have a comparatively easy grammar and would have to allow the creation of new words through the use of prefixes and suffixes. In 1878 his project "Lingwe uniwersala" was almost complete. However, Zamenhof was too young to publish his work.

After graduating from school, he began to study medicine, initially in Moscow and later in Warsaw. In 1885 Zamenhof graduated from university and started to work as an eye doctor, all the while continuing to work on his international language project, refining the language by translating literature into it, including the Old Testament as well as works by Shakespeare. For two years he tried to find financing to publish the book with the language description until he received the support of his future father-in-law. In 1887 his book finally appeared and led to a lot of people in many countries learning the language.

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