Mind the age gap
Communication technologies and intergenerational language transmission among Esperanto speakers in France
Esperanto is neither an official nor a commonly spoken language anywhere in the world and, due to the limited number of people who speak this language from birth and who teach it to the next generation, the persistence of this speech community cannot rely on intergenerational language transmission. Based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in France, mainly in Paris, this article explores continuities and discontinuities in the Esperanto community and movement bylooking at how present-day young Esperanto speakers use the language online and through networks of sociability. In asking what is transmitted from one generation of Esperanto speakers to the next, and how new communication technologies impact the ways in which people use the language, I analyse how the concentration of speakers from different age groups around distinct technologies creates a segmentation in this community that leaves some issues incommunicable and hard to transmit. I argue that, on the one hand, engaging with Esperanto through Esperanto associations and, on the other hand, through social media and non-institutionalised gatherings, shapesdifferent perceptions of the language, marking a shift from Esperanto as a forward-looking cause for activists to Esperanto as a tool for sociability and an intellectual game for language-lovers.
Keywords: speech community, Esperanto, intergenerational language transmission, generations, age groups, communication technologies, France
Published online: 01 July 2020
Ben-Amos, I. K.
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