Esperanto: a language made transparent?
Linguistics in Amsterdam
Number of pages
Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Esperanto is a so-called artificial or planned language, designed for use as a universal L2 in international communication.
Common sense tells us that a high level of transparency, i.e. of one-to-one projections between different levels of grammatical
analysis, should be beneficial to such a language. The notion of grammatical transparency was unknown to its author, Zamenhof,
and if about 75% of the features reviewed in this paper are transparent, this is not due to a deliberate design philosophy,
but to Zamenhof’s empirical and intuitive labor. The fact that no opacity is found among any of the phonological features
testifies his endeavor to create an easily speakable and understandable language for people with many different mother tongues.
Of great interest are certain diachronic developments in the use of the language, revealing a trend towards a wider exploitation
of built-in transparencies. Particular reference is made to the freedom in predicate building, not constrained by the semantic
categories of the selected lexemes. The price that is paid for this freedom is an increased level in semantic indeterminacy.
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