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How European is Esperanto?

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The typological similarities between Esperanto and other languages have long been a matter of debate. Assuming that foreign-language structures are more easily acquired when they resemble those of the learner’s native tongue, any candidate for a global lingua franca obviously ought to be as typologically neutral as possible. One common criticism of Esperanto is that it is ‘too European,’ and thus less accessible to speakers of non-European languages. In order to provide a more solid base for such discussions, this paper makes an attempt to quantify the Eurocentricity of Esperanto, employing the features catalogued in the World Atlas of Language Structures. It is concluded that Esperanto is indeed somewhat European in character, but considerably less so than the European languages themselves.

Keywords: Esperanto; Eurocentrism; comparative linguistics; interlinguistics; language structure; phonology; syntax; typology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 8, 2010

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