English: Early International Language

Esperantoist   Monday, August 30, 2004, 01:41 GMT
Most tend to think that English became the International language after French, after WWII (well, it had become the International language by WWII). Zamenhoff used many English words in Esperanto, so did Zamenhoff know that English would become an International language in 1887, well before WWII?
nic   Monday, August 30, 2004, 10:43 GMT

French has never been an international language like english is. Before World war II, french was only learnt in Latin countries and in some parts of Africa, a some parts of Asia and aristocracy lisse russian one but english has all the time been learnt more than the french.
Jordi   Monday, August 30, 2004, 16:53 GMT
I think that you are wrong. The importance of French until the Treaty of Versailles, when English first appears in an International World Treaty, just after WW1, is something which has been well studied. You forget to say that English was also the 1st foreign language of all the English-speaking elites of the world (including the US) whilst the French spoke very little or no English at all. English has never been really learnt like a major foreign language until the 1920s and, specially, the 1940s. Even the French often prefered to study Italian or German until the 1950s.
I suppose that has been studied elsewhere and we should check all the information we give. Obviously, by 1887 the British Empire, under Queen Victoria, was reaching its height. Things never happen, as the French say "du jour au lendemain" or "in a day".
The fact is English is the only real world language today although languages spoken in more than one continent (Spanish and French mainly) have still a lot to say.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Monday, August 30, 2004, 21:40 GMT
I wonder what percentage of English words constitute the Esperanto vocabulary? -- and, yes, I do realize that Esperanto allows spontaneous word creation.

Anyway, Esperanto still seems to have a Latin flavor to it, with the occasional odd inclusion of non-Romance artefacts, such as a plural that appears to come from Greek. Even the Esperanto word for "and" (kai) seems to be copied directly from Greek (although I'm sure Esperanto also adopted the Classical pronunciation [kai] rather than the modern one [ke]).
vn23   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 12:18 GMT
There is one major difference when you speak about the world of 1920 and today and that is the number of people who actually needed to speak an international language.

I'm sure French had importance as a diplomatic language but I doubt you could wander into a bakery in the Austro-Hungarian empire and say 'je voudrais une baguette'.
nic   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 13:00 GMT

You could not for a simple reason, austro-hungarian empire did not make "baguettes" and for a second reason, the 1st language learned in the empire was german.
Jordi   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 13:33 GMT
vn23. I agree to that since how many people couldn't even read or write in 1920 in their own language? You'd'be surprised but it would be well over 50% in all European countries since official figures for that period and time do exist. The fact is the language used by people who made world decisions in 1920 was French and in 2004 it's English. You'd be surprised at how well Queen Elizabeth II, born in 1926, speaks French. We'd be probably appalled by the level of French of her grandsons.
As for baguettes it's a pity if they didn't make any in Vienna or Budapest. I would think baguettes would also have been a part of the menu of the upper classes in those countries. After all, they all had Champagne in the ice box.
vn23   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 14:15 GMT
I think that simple reason is the whole point, people travelled less and the average joe wouldn't speak any foreign language.

Walk into a bakery in Vienna today and ask "could I please have a muffin" and you will probably be understood.
Clark   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Excuse me for being a bit dense, but does anyone know why Zamenhof used English words in Esperanto?

If English was not the international language in 1887 (1890s), then why were so many English words used ("birdo" and "jes" for example)?
Jordi   Tuesday, August 31, 2004, 19:20 GMT
Dear Clark:
We could, of course, do some research. Neverhteless, I repeat a couple of sentences, which I wrote in a previous post:
"Obviously, by 1887 the British Empire, under Queen Victoria, was reaching its height. Things never happen, as the French say "du jour au lendemain" or "in a day". "
The fact that English was not "the most" important international language in 1887 doesn't mean Zemnhof wasn't aware it was "the most" important Germanic language of its time anf getting bigger. If "birdo" and "jes" mean what I think they mean they are two Germanisms used in English. Esperanto isn't supposed to be a Romance language although I haven't studied the language. Zamenhoff did a language for the Western world since Chinese or Japanese (and a thousand others) just don't appear in his invention.
Margaret   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 13:25 GMT
I'd be interested to know when and how French took over from Latin as the language of diplomacy. Of course the English throne still had French subjects till Mary I's time but courtiers then were still more likely to speak Italian I believe.
Andrea   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 13:34 GMT
Dear Margaret :
Do you mean italians were only courties?!
Easterner   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 16:29 GMT
Margaret, concerning your question, I think that may have happened at the time of Louis XIV. That was the time France was the strongest political entity in Europe. At any rate the nobility in Russia were speaking practically French alone among themselves in the 18th century, and the same was true for communication between monarchs all over Europe at the time (at least on the Continent).

By the way, I have realised that although the Académie Francaise is thriving to maintain the purity of French, and some of its earlier "grandeur", there are French people even at this forum who think that French isn't and shouldn't be a major language in the EU, preferring English instead, which strikes me as new (my implications may have been wrong though). Can it be a reaction to the preoccupation with language issues in academic circles? Could anybody enlighten me on what is the possible reason for this?
Easterner   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 01:48 GMT
Sorry, "striving" and not "thriving".