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Brief Notes on L.L. Zamenhof Posted by on Mar 19, 2009 in Esperanto Language

Who is L.L. Zamenhof? To studentoj kaj parolantoj of Esperanto, Zamenhof is a hero of sorts, whose singular contributions to world language have been greater than any individual before or since. He has even been deified in the Shinto religion of Japan, where he is recognized as a “kami.”

(studento = student; -j = denotes plural. Paroli = to speak; -ant- = present active participle; -o = denotes noun; Parolanto = one who speaks.)

I mentioned in an earlier post that L.L. Zamenhof invented Esperanto, the world’s most widely used artificial language. To his credit, few people could have been as qualified to embark on the project as he – he spoke Russian as his first language, then later Polish, German, Yiddish, Latin, French, Hebrew, Greek, and English. He also studied Spanish, Italian, and Lithuanian, although I have not found any sources that mention if he spoke them. Though he is famous for his studies of language, Zamenhof was also a career okulkuracisto, and made a living treating patients in Vienna and elsewhere.

(okulo = eye; kuraci = to cure/treat; -ist- = infix, one who performs an action; okulkuracisto = eye doctor, opthamologist.)

Zamenhof likely recognized the need for a universal language while growing up in his hometown of Bialystock (which is now part of Poland). His neighborhood consisted of several different ethnic groups, each with their own native language. Zamenhof witnesses lots of confusion, misunderstanding, and even mistrust among these different groups. He attributed this to the lack of a mutually understood language. If these groups were able to speak the same language, he felt, then they would be able to coexist more peacefully.

When he released the first publication of his newly-created language, entitled “Lingvo Internacia: Antauxparolo kaj Plena Lernolibro,” Zamenhof identified himself as “Doktoro Esperanto.” From that pseudonym, Esperanto later found its name.

(The title translates to “International Language: Foreword and Full Textbook.” Doktoro = doctor; esperi = to hope; Esperanto = one who hopes.)

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