世界语是一门西方语言吗?

Claude Piron

如果你是世界语的一个门外汉,你将试图把它看成是一门西方语言。世界语的发音会让你想起意大利语,它的词汇,在很大程度上来说,确实有罗曼语族语言的风味。如果你有机会听到该语言的对话,你将马上注意到”yes”(是)的发音和英语中的一样(虽然他的写法是jes)这貌似证实了这门语言的西方性质。如果你更熟悉语言学、听得更仔细,你会意识到相当大部分的日耳曼词根,你将得出结论:世界语的确是一门西方语言,并且和英语一样,它的单词都来源于拉丁语和日耳曼语。

如果你曾经学过希腊语,你将发现它比你开始想的要更东方化一点。“And”(和)在世界语中是kaj (和I的押一个韵),跟古希腊语中的kai有相同的意义,复数形式明显是受到了荷马的语言的影响。在古希腊语中,parallelos (一条平行线)的复数形式是paralleloi (平行线);在世界语中,paralelo的复数是 paraleloj(与boy押一个韵),和古希腊语的拼法非常相近。

看到世界语的文本后也许会稍稍改变你的第一印象。一些戴帽子的辅音字母,单词结尾元音后面反复出现的字母”j”,像kv之类会让人联想起斯洛文尼亚语或者克罗地亚语的字母组合。如果从你这里看到了斯拉夫语的影响,那么你猜对了。世界语出生在东欧。它的句法,许多语法特点,一些短语和典型句子的风格确实透露了重要的斯拉夫语基础。这也表现在语义学方面。虽然单词”plena”(满)取自罗曼语族,它的用法却并不是被限制在法语的plein或者葡萄牙语的pleno,它和俄语的polnyj有着相同的语义范围,它来源于共同的古印欧语系词根pln。在罗曼语系语言中你不能说plein dictionnaire, pleno dicionario(字面上的意思:完全字典),你必须使用像 complet, completo 这样的单词并把它放在名词的后面。Plena vortaro,在世界语中,是俄语的polnyj slovar的字面翻译,就好像 ‘dictionary’ 是来自“word”的变形(俄语slovo是“word”的意思,slovas是dictionary的意思;世界语vorto是“word”的意思,vortaro是dictionary的意思)

世界语和闪族语有没有共同点呢?在形式上,没有;在精神上,有。同阿拉伯语和希伯来语一样,世界语通过在不变的词根上派生出大多数的词汇。事实上,在闪族语中,词根大多由三个辅音组成,派生往往是通过插入元音来实现的,而在世界语词根中没有预置的模式,只有一个方法在词根上派生新词——在词前或词汇添加一些东西。同样,在世界语版本的希伯来圣经中包含大约和原始版本相同数量的词根。从这方面来说,相比西方语言的翻译版本它与后者更接近,西方语言必须使用大量与希伯来语不对等的单词来翻译,而不像希伯来语和世界语有着对等的词汇。

如果再往东方走,我们从阿拉伯到了波斯,我们离开一门语法复杂而且有很多例外的语言,和一门非常一贯的语言相遇了。在阿拉伯语中,为了变成复数,你经常得改变整个单词的内部结构:kitab (“book”)变成 kutub(“books”)。波斯语,很多单词借自阿拉伯语,但是并没有保留后者的不规则复数。为了变成复数,你只需要在词尾加”-ha”,因此,kitab的复数就不必单独记了,很简单的就是kitabha’books’。世界语也是如此的简单。你只需要一瞬间就能学会所有名词的复数形式,因为你仅仅记住加 j 就可以了,j 的读音和boy中的y是一样的。这和像德语、豪萨语、阿拉伯语之类的语言相比多么得不同啊,在那些语言中,你实际上被迫学习每个新单词的复数形式!甚至在英语中,虽然更加规则,但是仍然还有一定数量的例外:woman, child, foot, mouse, sheep和许多其他不遵循一般规则(复数是在词尾加“s ”)的单词。

大多数的西方人无法想象某些语言能够如此规则:不规则动词、复数形式的例外或者不清楚的派生,对于说这些语言的人来说,是不可理喻的,就像神经病的畸形产物。如果没有这些不规则对于我们将非常愉快,并且完全能互相理解。这些语言是汉语,越南语和…世界语。这三门语言有一个共同的特征把他们同大多数的语言区分开来,尤其是印欧语系的语言:他们由严格不变的元素组成,并且能够自由的组合。对于说这一类语言的人来说,”first”的意思不能由”one”来派生(像tenth是从ten中来的那样),这似乎很奇怪,它的代词变化没有任何的规律,以至于你必须学习包括“ I ”在内的一系列单词,me,my和mine。在汉语中,my和mine,这样说,是I的形容词形式:”wo” =”I”,wode= “my”,”mine”(对比:women=”we”,womende =”our”,”ours”)

世界语以相同的方式来派生相类似的单词。因此,两种语言都是通过平行形式来表达平行现实,而西方语言则无法这样表达。 在“He takes yours, you take his”(英语:你拿他的,他拿你的)这种相互的动作出现在汉语(你拿他的,他拿你的)和世界语(Li prenas vian, vi prenas lian.)中。在英语中,看不到这种对称美:你不能从you(你)构造出yours(英语:你的),你必须把他们当成两个单词来记,并且还要记住什么情况用take和什么情况用takes。为了准确表达自己,英语中集合和细节的记忆量显然要比汉语和世界语可怕得多。

在构词法上汉语和世界语有着同样的模式。在英语中,如同在法语中一样,你没法用一个词表达“同一个种族的人”或“讲同一种语言的人”这个概念,而必须分别记忆诸如“fellow-citizen”和”coreligionist”。在汉语中,你只需要知道词语的结构和基础词汇就可以了。如同世界语中,构造samlandano“同胞”,samreligiano“教友”,samklasano“同窗”,samrasano“同胞”,samlingvano“同母语者”时,你只需要知道“sam…ano”模式,并且插入相应的词根即可。同样,一个学习英文、法文或意大利文的中国人必须记住完全不一样的“外国人”这个单词(分别是英语foreigner, 法文étranger和意大利文straniero)。如果他学习世界语,他就可以按照他的母语一个音节一个音节(或者如语言学家的术语:一个语素一个语素)地翻译这个单词的三个元素:外(ekster)国(land)人(ano)。而世界语的“外国人”正是eksterlandano。

这里有另一个例子。试图学习西方语言并且想要精确说出动物名称的中国人必须记忆整个一系列名词,这些名词在他自己的语言中是遵循一定规律的。学会了horse对于他想表达(或理解)mare,colt和stallion没有任何帮助;同样地。知道了怎么说ox不能帮助他说cow,calf和bull(更不用说beef,veal和相似的单词了)。在汉语中,这些单词是一个有规律的表格的一部分。他们分别是ma,xiaoma和gongma(对于马类),niu,muniu,xiaoniu和gongniu(对于牛类)。这个系统和世界语相一致。单词的关系是一样的,一方面是,ĉevalo和 ĉevalino, ĉevalido, virĉevalo,另一方面是,bovo and bovino, bovido and virbovo。

那些批评世界语太西方化了的人忽视了两个重要的问题。首先,他们忽略了对于一门语言进行语言学的分析,只有这样才能在深层次上发现与他们的先见多多不同的地方:他们的判断完全是表面的。其次,他们忽视了不同母语间人们在需要沟通时共通语的必要性。实践中,如果在不使用世界语的情况下相互理解沟通依赖于什么语言?依赖于英语!这也不是另一门西方语言吗?事实上,英语比世界语有着更多的西方语言特征,使得这个星球上大多数居民更加难以掌握。没有哪门语言能够完全让所有人出于同等地位。但是在所有现存和运用的语言中,世界语是最接近这个理想的。在经过2000小时的英语学习(即10年间每周5小时),日本人和中国人基本上不能运用自如。他们的笨拙,如同他们某些发音的困难一样,表现在使得交流更加困难和表现得荒唐可笑,更加不利的是,便宜了那些英语是母语的人,尽管后者对于互相交流什么也没做。在经过220小时的世界语学习后,一般情况,东亚的学员能够真正地使用世界语交流。世界语对于任何人都是外语,并且即便是有些口音,对于大家也一样。

无论谁想要公正和客观,只要他还没有对这门语言进行足够深度的分析,把它和英语以及他假装要保护的人的母语比较的话,他就没有批评世界语的权利。在民主程序中,你是被假定无辜的,只要你的罪行还没有被证明。这将符合最好的西方传统,如果把这个原则应用到世界语中——保留某人的判断直到证据已经被证明。没有任何严肃的语言学家、记者或政治家没有收集事实就敢对他加禄语或马拉雅拉姆语发表评论。我们也没有任何理由对世界语采取不同的态度。

Claude Piron

Esperanto, a Western Language?

If you examine Esperanto from the outside, you’ll be tempted to consider it a Western language. Its pronunciation will remind you of the sounds of Italian and its vocabulary has, to a large extent, a definite Romance flavor. If you have the opportunity to hear a conversation in Esperanto, you will soon notice that “yes” is used just as in English and is pronounced in the same way (though it is written jes). This will seem to confirm the Western nature of the language. If, being more conversant with linguistics and listening more carefully, you perceive a relatively high proportion of Germanic roots, you will conclude that it is indeed a Western language, and that, just as in English, its words are of both Latin and Germanic origin.

If you have studied Greek, you will find it a bit more Eastern than you thought at first. “And” translates as kaj (rhyming with I), which is the exact equivalent of the ancient Greek kai, and plurals are apparently inspired by Homer’s language. In ancient Greek, parallelos ‘a parallel line’ becomes in the plural paralleloi ‘parallel lines’; in Esperanto, the plural of paralelo is paraleloj (rhyming with boy), a very close approximation to the classical Greek pronunciation.

Seeing an Esperanto text may somewhat alter your first impressions. The presence of some consonants with little hooks, the recurrence of the letter j after a vowel at the end of words, groups of letters like kv give it an aspect reminiscent of Slovene or Croatian. If this suggests to you a Slavic influence, you’ll be on the right track. Esperanto was born in Eastern Europe. Its syntax, many grammatical features, a number of phrases and the style of a typical sentence do betray an important Slavic substratum. The same may be said of semantics. While the word plena ‘full’ is taken from Romance languages, its usage is not restricted to the meaning of the French plein or the Portuguese pleno: it covers the same semantic field as the Russian polnyj, which derives from the same Indo-European root pln. In no Romance language could you speak of a plein dictionnaire or pleno dicionario (literally, ‘full dictionary’): you’ll use a word like complet or completo and put it after the noun. Plena vortaro, in Esperanto, is a literal rendering of the Russian ‘polnyj slovar’ even in the way ‘dictionary’ is derived from ‘word’ (Russian slovo ‘word’, slovar ‘dictionary’; Esperanto vorto ‘word’, vortaro ‘dictionary’).

Has Esperanto anything in common with Semitic languages? In form, no; in spirit, yes. As in Arabic and Hebrew, Esperanto creates most of its vocabulary through derivation from invariable roots. True, in Semitic languages, roots are almost always made up of three consonants and derivation is often effected by inserting vowels in between, whereas roots in Esperanto have no predetermined pattern and the only way of deriving a word from a root is to add something either at the beginning or at the end. All the same, the Esperanto version of the Hebrew Bible contains approximately the same number of roots as the original. In this it is much closer to the latter than translations in Western languages, forced to use numerous words which, unlike their equivalents in Hebrew and Esperanto, have no transparent derivation.

If, heading further towards the Orient, we proceed from Arabic to Persian, we leave a language with a complicated grammar and many exceptions to encounter a rather remarkably consistent language. To form the plural in Arabic you often have to transform the whole interior of the word: kitab ‘book’ becomes kutub ‘books’. Persian, which has borrowed many words from Arabic, has not kept the latter’s irregular plurals. To form the plural, you simply add the ending -ha, so that the plural of kitab doesn’t have to be memorized separately, but is simply kitabha ‘books’. Esperanto is characterized by a similar simplicity. You need just a split second to learn how to form the plural of any noun, since you only have to remember that this is done by adding a j, which is always pronounced as the y in boy. What a difference from languages like German, Hausa and Arabic, in which you are practically obliged to learn the plural with every new noun! And even from English, which is more consistent but still presents various exceptions: woman, child, foot, mouse, sheep, and many other words do not follow the general rule stating that the plural is formed by adding an -s.

Most Westerners do not imagine that some languages are so consistent that irregular verbs, exceptions in plural formation or unclear derivation are unthinkable for their speakers, something like the aberrant product of a neurotic mind. It is so much more pleasant to do without those inconsistencies and yet understand one another perfectly! Among such languages are Chinese, Vietnamese and… Esperanto. These three have in common a feature that sets them apart from most languages, especially the Indo-European ones: they are composed of strictly invariable elements which are combinable without restriction. For people who speak such a language, the idea that ‘first’ cannot be derived from ‘one’ as tenth is from ten, seems quite bizarre, as it seems incomprehensible that there is no pattern in the modulations of pronouns, so that you have to learn, besides I, a whole series of words like me, my and mine. In Chinese, ‘my’ and ‘mine’ are, so to say, the adjectival form of ‘I’: wo ‘I’, wode ‘my’, ‘mine’ (compare women ‘we’, womende ‘our’, ‘ours’).

Esperanto derives its corresponding words in the same way. As a result, parallel realities are expressed in both languages by parallel forms, which cannot be said of any Western language. In ‘He takes yours, you take his’, the reciprocity of the gestures appears in the language as appropriately in Chinese (ta na nide, ni na tade) as in Esperanto (li prenas vian, vi prenas lian). In English, while the symmetry is visible, it is not as perfect as in Chinese and Esperanto: you cannot form yours from you or his from he, you have to learn those words as separate entities, and what is take in one part of the sentence becomes takes in the other. Units or details that have to be memorized in order to express oneself correctly are considerably more numerous in Western languages than in Chinese or Esperanto.

In word formation as well, Chinese and Esperanto share a similarity of patterns. In English, as in French, you have to learn separately such words as fellow-citizen and coreligionist, and you cannot express in one word the concept ‘a person of the same race’ or ‘somebody who speaks the same language’. In Chinese you only have to know the structure and the basic word, and it is the same in Esperanto: to form samlandano ‘fellow-citizen’, ‘compatriot’, samreligiano ‘coreligionist’, samklasano ‘member of the same class’, samrasano ‘person of the same race’, samlingvano ‘person with the same language’, you just have to know the pattern sam…ano and insert the corresponding root. Similarly, a Chinese who studies English, French or Italian has to memorize as a completely different unit the word foreigner (étranger, straniero). If he learns Esperanto, he has only to translate syllable after syllable (morpheme after morpheme, a linguist would say) the three elements of the word in his mother tongue: waiguoren ‘foreigner’ is made up of wai ‘outside’ (Esperanto: ekster), guo ‘country’ (Esperanto: land) and ren ‘human being’ (corresponding here to the Esperanto ano, a human being who belongs to, who is a member of, who resides in…). ‘Foreigner’ is thus eksterlandano in Esperanto.

Here is another example. The Chinese who tries to acquire a Western language and wants to be able to speak accurately of animals has to memorize a whole series of nouns which, in his own language, follow regular patterns. To have learned horse is of no avail if he has to express (or understand) mare, colt and stallion; similarly, knowing how to say ox does not help him say cow, calf and bull (to say nothing of beef, veal and similar words). In Chinese, such words are part of a consistent table. They are respectively ma, muma, xiaoma and gongma (for the horse family), niu, muniu, xiaoniu and gongniu (for the ox family). The system is equally consistent in Esperanto. The relationship is the same between, on the one hand, ĉevalo (ĉ is pronounced as ch) and ĉevalino, ĉevalido, virĉevalo, and, on the other hand, bovo and bovino, bovido and virbovo.

Those who criticize Esperanto for being too Western overlook two important aspects of the question. First, they neglect to proceed to a linguistic analysis of the language, which is the only way to discover how different it is, in depth, from what it seems to be at first sight: their judgment is purely superficial. Second, they ignore the fact that some language is necessary if people with different mother tongues need to communicate. In practice, what language does one fall back on when mutual comprehension is needed and Esperanto is not used? On English! Isn’t this one a Western language? As a matter of fact, it has many more Western features than Esperanto, and is much more difficult to learn and use for the large majority of the inhabitants of our planet. No language could put all peoples on an equal footing. But among all those that exist and are being used, Esperanto comes closest to that ideal. After 2000 hours of English (five hours a week for ten school years), the average Japanese and Chinese are incapable of using it in a really operational way. Their clumsiness, as well as their difficulty in producing the relevant sounds, tend to complicate communication or to make them appear ridiculous, a problem from which the native speaker of English is spared, and unfairly, as he is the one who has made no effort towards mutual understanding. After 220 hours of Esperanto, on average, Eastern Asians can genuinely communicate in that language, which is a foreign language for everyone and in which the risk of sounding strange is thus equally distributed.

Whoever wants to play fair and be objective has to refrain from criticizing Esperanto until he has adequately analyzed the language and compared it to English and the mother tongues of the peoples whose interests he pretends to defend. In a democracy one is presumed innocent as long as one’s guilt has not been proven. It would be in accordance with the best Western traditions to apply that principle to Esperanto as well, and to reserve one’s judgment until the evidence has been examined. No serious linguist, journalist or politician would dare pass judgment on Tagalog or Malayalam without having gathered facts on those languages. There is no reason to adopt a different attitude concerning Esperanto.

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