Sunday, July 12, 2015

North Dakota News of Esperanto

Civilization demands Esperanto!
The Pioneer Express of Pembina, North Dakota got to Esperanto fairly early. In July 1901, most people in the United States were completely unaware of Esperanto. There had been the occasional reference beforehand (dating all the way back to Esperanto’s introduction in 1887), but as Esperanto neared its fourteenth birthday, out of the slightly more 5,567 Esperantists (that number being the final name in the listings that ended for January 14, 1901), almost none were Americans.

[Digression 1. Esperantist 5,567 was Miss Ingeborg Bergqvist, of Södertelge, Sweden, and her name had been sent in by J. J. Süssmuth.]

[Digression 2. It’s not a solo project to create, so I won’t be the one, but it would be great to have a database of the early Esperantists listed in these directories. I really don’t want to type in tens of thousands of names; I just don’t have the time. Really, we need people to take ranges of a couple hundred names at a shot. Then I could simply search to find out how many Americans were in the international movement. Series XXI of the Adresaro de la Esperantistoj includes two Americans, neither of them in North Dakota.]

Digressions aside, the Pioneer Express was probably dealing with a readership utterly innocent of Esperanto, since they were unlikely readers of any of the newspapers that had covered Esperanto in the fourteen years prior to July 12, 1901. It’s a somewhat lengthly article, but I’m in a typing mood today.

Learned in a Few Hours—Civilization Demands an Easy Medium of Communication Between Different Peoples—Philologists Asked to Give Aid.
A determined attempt is now being made in Paris to spread the use of an “international or auxiliary language” in order to aid travelers, merchants, scientists and other persons who find themselves placed temporary in a country where they do not understand the national speech. This attempt recalls that made some years ago in favor of “Volapuk,” which still has its advocates, but which has, on the whole, proved an ignominious failure on account of its complexity.

Some have thought that the English language would become the common tongue of the world, but it is a well-known that that the so-called English language is a mixture of many languages. The auxiliary language now being pushed forward in the French Academie des Sciences and by other organizations which are convinced of its practicability and eventual efficacy, is called “Esperanto” (the corrupted gerundive hinting at its desirability), and is the invention of a Russian, Dr. Zamenhoff, who says that the language is so simply contrasted as to be readily understood with only a dictionary to aid the student. That is—Esperanto has no grammar, a fact which, to begin with can hardly be considered as anything but an undiluted blessing.

The Marquis de Beaufront, who has spent the last ten years in trying to further the interest of the language, is now explaining them twice a week to audiences composed of the members of “Touring Club de France,” which claims to be the most extensive cycling organization in the world, and which includes some 800 Americans in its membership. Learning English, German or Italian is the work, more or less, of a life-time; learning Esperanto is the effort of half a day.

M. Couturat, a well-known young philologist and philosopher at Paris has interested himself greatly in the scheme, and is the head of a delegation which has just presented an address to the president of the Academie des Sciences asking that this body deliberate with all gravity and seriousness on the question of lending its weight and authority to the spread of the common language. 
M. Couturat said: 

“Civilization demand the existence of such a common and easy medium of communication between different peoples. All philosophers, including Bacon, Pascal, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Condillac, Diderot, Volley and Ampere, have agreed that this is so, and some of the, for example, Leibniz, have tried to supply the need, when Latin grew out of the question on account of the time required to learn it and its natural inflexibility for the practical purposes of our age. Volapuk miserably failed a dozen years ago. It was not constructed scientifically. 

Esperanto on the contrary, has not had to be ‘invented’ at all. It has grown gradually out of the growth of modern languages. There are already a multiplicity of scientific terms and other common now to so many languages that an ‘international vocabulary’ may already be said to exist. Other words, are common to three languages; still other to only two; all these words then, will furnish the kernel or starting point of the new language; their number grows greater all the time. Compound and derived words will be formed according to the most simple rules, and the spelling will be rigorously phonetic. Similarities of pronunciation between different words will be avoided with great care. Great terseness and brevity will be secured by abolishing long endings 

For instance, take the word ‘joy.’ This, in the international Esperanto is ‘ĝojo. ‘Joyous’ is made by changing the vowel ending ‘ĝoja.’ “Joyously” is ‘ĝoje’; ‘to rejoice’ is ‘ĝoji.’ Verbs are not inflected; only the pronoun changes. This is of infantile simplicity and one easy understands Tolstoi’s statement that ‘after two hours I found I could easily read Esperanto. After four hours I wrote it with ease; it is a great discovery.’’’
To spread the language several Americans organizations are to be communicated with, and philologists of the United States are to be asked to lend aid in the project.
This was set as a single, continuous paragraph, but I just couldn’t inflict at on my readers. Admittedly, the very long quotation from Louis Couturat takes up half the piece. Couturat also chose a word, ĝojo, which required the specialized Esperanto characters (so easy today, so difficult in 1901), and creates the nonexistent gojo. (For those non-Esperantists reading this, ĝojo is pronounced “joy-o,” while gojo would be “go-yo,” if such a word existed.)

The point made about English as a “mixture of many languages” is irrelevant (why would that affect its use internationally?) and is also pretty much true of plenty of other languages. It’s not like German and French don’t have loan words from each other and, for that matter, English.

Six years before the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language, we have Couturat stumping for the idea, presenting this idea to the French Academy of Sciences, while De Beaufront worked on the Touring Club de France. Just as Volapük was insufficiently logical for Couturat, he would (only six years later) leave the Esperanto movement and become the leader of the Ido movement (though he did deny being the creator of Ido).

Although the Pioneer Express kept the people of Dakota informed on the progress of Esperanto, there does not seem to be any indication that this article made a great impression on the people of North Dakota. Then again, if you read the article and were curious about it, they really gave no resources for finding out more information about it.
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