Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy Zamenhof day

Portreto de la majstro Ludovic Lazarus...

The telegraph and telephone have made of the world a whispering gallery. Or as they say in Esperanto "Telegrafio kaj telefonio kreis el la mondo flustrogalerion".

Today Dec 15 is Zamenhof Day so named for the birthday of L.L.Zamenhof, (1859-1917) the founder of the Esperanto language. Zamenhofa Taga to you. Zamenhof was born of Jewish stock in Bialystok in the Russian Empire (now in Poland). His native languages were Russian and Yiddish, but he also spoke Polish and German fluently. Later he learned French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and English, and he also had an interest in Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian. Interestingly, he is considered a god by the Oomoto religion. A Japanese Shinto-offshoot religion devoted to all things Esperanto, apparently.

Zamenhof made attempts to create an international language with a grammar that was very rich, but also very complex. He decided that the international language must have a relatively simple grammar with a wide use of suffixes to make new forms of the words. Esperanto was the result. Linguists describe it as "a language lexically predominantly romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinative and to a certain degree isolating in character". It has the five vowels of Spanish and Swahili and 23 consonants. There are approximately two million speakers worldwide of which one thousand are native Esperanto speakers.

The most famous living native speaker is probably George Soros, the American financier. Soros's father is Esperanto writer Tivador Soros. And the word Soros (to which the Jewish family changed its name in 1936) is the future tense of the verb 'to soar' in Esperanto. The family was in Hungary after the war and George Soros escaped to the west by participating in an Esperanto Youth Congress.

Viva Zamenhof!

why was I completely beaten by the rhythm
one sentence split out 13 times in this prism?
I was suspicious of this faker’s dozen
I could not stop my head from buzzing
I counted them out of their draughty shelves
but my numeric music was a staccato of twelves
how had I one less beat
with which to make ends meet?
as my brain tumbled full of rocks
I pondered on this little paradox
I died of pleasure and went straight to heaven
as I counted 2 notes for the syllables of eleven

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