Chapter published in:Contested Languages: The hidden multilingualism of Europe
Edited by Marco Tamburelli and Mauro Tosco
[Studies in World Language Problems 8] 2021
► pp. 247–267
The language ideology of Esperanto
From the world language problem to balanced multilingualism
The status of Esperanto, the language launched by Zamenhof in 1887, has been contested since its beginning. Esperanto became the most relevant of the International Auxiliary Languages (IALs) from a sociolinguistic perspective, as it successfully survived two World Wars in spite of being explicitly persecuted by Hitler and Stalin, among others (Lins 2017). The motivations of the pioneers of Esperanto were put under scrutiny according to the different political context, both across time and place (Forster 1982). Therefore, its language ideology was adapted in order to reduce the level of contestedness of the language, and this adaptation re-framed the self-perception of its speakers and their attitudes toward Esperanto itself. For instance, before the Great War in Europe there was a strong connection between the Esperanto movement and pacifism (Alcalde 2015), while in the 1930s in China and Japan Esperanto was linked to anarchism and communism (Lins 2008). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the language ideology deeply changed (Jordan 1987), and the link between Esperanto and linguistic rights became increasingly stronger (Pietiläinen 2010). Nowadays, the new generation of Esperantists is facing the new challenges of the Digital Era. In particular, there is an ideological convergence with other contested languages, in particular Regional and Minority Languages, also in the Esperanto speaker’s attitudes (Caligaris 2016; Gobbo and Miola 2016). This chapter aims to illustrate the evolution of the language ideology of Esperanto, in comparison with other contested languages.
Published online: 21 January 2021
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