When the Internet blossomed, people spoke of the vast digital network as a way of uniting a divided world. Users of the Net will know, however, that in practice you can only read and interact with the certain segment of the Internet that is written and spoken in the language you understand.

As Australians we are fortunate because we use the dominant Net language, English. Nevertheless, there are million of pages and people who remain strangers to us because we cannot understand them.

The networking standard TCP / IP* allows our computers to exchange data with their computers. But if we can make neither head nor tail of the rubbish on our monitors, no amount of data is going to improve the situation.

"A Common Language"

By Hal Crawford

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This is where a dead OCULIST* named L.L.Zamenhof shuffles into the picture. Dr Zamenhof lived in the border area between Poland and Russia in the mid-19th century. He knew all about racial conflict.

He believed a lot of the problems between people could be solved by a common language, so he invented one that everyone could use. He signed his invention "Dr Esperanto", which means "the hopeful one", and thus the language became known as ESPERANTO.

It is said to be a very easy language to learn, because it is logical and conforms to a few simple rules. It is also pronounced exactly as it is written and the word order can be mixed without affecting the meaning too much.

The base vocabulary for the words is mainly taken from the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish) with a few German and Russian sounding words thrown in.

The number of people who speak Esperanto is unknown; it is certainly more than 100,000, and probably fewer than four million.

The Doc certainly was an optimist if he thought everyone would be speaking it, but it is still by far the most popular artificial language in the world.

*TCP / IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, and is a set of rules which tells computers how to break up and transmit data over wires.

*An OCULIST is an eye-doctor, also known as an ophthalmologist, which sounds more fancy.

Por ni esperantistoj nacianeco estas ne absoluta. Gxi signifas
sole malsamon de lingvo, kutimo, kulturo, hauxtkoloro kaj tiel plu.

                  For us Esperantists, nationality is not absolute. It means only
                  a difference of language, custom, culture, skin colour and so forth.


Go to the site below to listen to Esperanto being spoken. Personally I don't think it's too easy to roll Rs like that.

Sign up for a free e-mail Esperanto course below.
• www.pacujo.nu/esperanto/course

More information on all of the artificial languages.
• www.best.com/~donh/Esperanto/EBook/chap03.html

The Exploratorium site below has a fascinating article on the evolution of our natural languages.
• www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/language

-- ©Copyright The West Australian Ed Magazine page 6, Cyberia, "A Common Language," April 3, 2001.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you distribute this PLEASE acknowledge the source. ***

The West Australian http://www.thewest.com.au/   Hal Crawford hal.crawford@wanews.com.au   Letters to the editor letters@wanews.com.au

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