Esperanto as a Family Language


Abstract. Esperanto was created to serve as a common second language in the world, but its present role as a vehicular language is confined to a rather small number of speakers who use it in their personal contacts and cultural activities, but seldom in their trades and professions. They form a kind of diasporic speech community with certain shared cultural values and symbols, original literature unknown outside the community, and frequent personal contacts at various meetings and on the Internet. Esperanto has also been used as a family language for about one hundred years, and there are perhaps one thousand first-language speakers. The paper presents an overview of the little-studied field of Esperanto as a native and family language and points out some methodological and factual problems in the few published studies. The major pitfalls of the study of native Esperanto are identified as follows: (i) concentrating on mixed marriages only; (ii) confusing the Esperanto speech community with the Esperanto movement; (iii) not knowing the language sufficiently; (iv) ignoring the subjects ’ linguistic background, and (v) expecting a priori nativisation to bring about changes in the language

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