Tuesday, December 15, 2009

150th Anniversary of the Birth of Doktoro Esperanto

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birthday of Dr. Ludwik Lazar Zamenhof, who was born in Bialystok, Poland on December 15, 1859 and died in 1917. He studied medicine in Moscow and Warsaw, and began his practice as an ophthalmologist in 1886 in Vienna. He was a gifted linguist as a young boy, and attempted to create a universal language while still a secondary student.

Esperanto was the name Zamenhof gave to this artificial language, and in 1887 he is said to have published the book, Lingvo internacia. Antaŭparolo kaj plena lernolibro (International Language. Foreword And Complete Textbook), but no record for this is present in WorldCat. Zamenhof used the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto, or "Doctor Hopeful," and though Esperanto has not achieved his goal of becoming a common language among the world's peoples and thus an instrument for improved global communications, it still has many thousands of adherents. The Universal Esperanto Association is the largest present day organization of Esperanto speakers, with members in over 100 countries. In 1907, Zamenhof was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 12 members of the British Parliament for his work in creating Esperanto.

The earliest works by Zamenhof held in a library are apparently the German text, Internationale Sprache: Vorrede und vollständiges Lehrbuch, and the French text, Langue internationale, préface et manuel complet, both appearing in 1887. An early English translation of Zamenhof's work was published in 1889 as An Attempt Towards an International Language, by Dr. Esperanto. The translator was Henry Phillips, Jr., and the Rare Book Collection at UNC's Wilson Library has a presentation copy autographed by Phillips. An online edition of Esperanto (The Universal Language): The Student's Complete Text Book, Containing Full Grammar, Exercises, Conversations, Commercial Letters, and Two Vocabularies (1907) is available on the Internet Archive.

Note: In honor of Zamenhof's birthday, Google is flying the Esperanto flag on its search page (image above). Google does not yet offer Esperanto translation on its site, but does provide machine translation for many other languages. One such tool is the blog translator found in the righthand column of this blog, which will translate any of the postings found here into one's choice of several dozen languages.

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