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Question from the history of Esperanto

I read that Dr. Zamenhof created Esperanto because he wanted to improve communication among inhabitants of his home town - Białystok: Poles, Russians, Belorussians and Jews. Does anybody know why features from Slavic languages are not so prominent in Esperanto? Has anybody written something about this?

September 15, 2019



I can't speak for all Slavic languages, as I've only studied Russian, and then only on Duolingo. That said, I think these features of Esperanto are influenced by Slavic languages:

  • The accusative case. Many languages have no cases at all, so it wouldn't be necessary to have them. However, in order to have flexible word order for poetry, music, and nuances of meaning, the accusative is very handy. Thankfully Esperanto only has two cases, and not six like Russian or four like German.
  • Using the accusative case with propositions of motion. IIRC Russian does this (and so does German), whereas English either combines two propositions (into, onto), or leaves things ambiguous (e.g. "he was walking across the street" could mean from one side to the other, or along the other side)
  • Reflexive pronoun (si). Russian has several of them, not just for 3rd person singular.
  • Using the volitive with a clause separator to indicate another's will (ke oni aĉetu ĝin). My workmate from Ukraine formulates his English sentences in this way: "they want that we ..." (instead of "they want us to ...")

That's all I can think of for now, and I probably haven't explained it very well. I'm sure you can find more info if you search for shared grammatical features between Esperanto and Slavic languages.

Manĝu terpomojn kaj feliĉiĝu!


To this I would add the use of adverbs to describe non-nouns.

  • It's good to be the king.
  • Estas bone, esti la reĝo.

There's certainly plenty of Slavic influence in Esperanto. I also note that in the OP, German was left off the list.


diras la rego de Espernato


Those features are mostly the same in Latin. I thought he took those (at least the three first) from Latin, which is a very important base for Esperanto.

The 'cxu' word for asking questions is taken from Polish, however. A purely slavic feature in EO, more or less.


Well, all of this is speculation on my part; I don't know if he ever sat down and wrote "this is where I got feature X from". But he spoke Russian natively, so even though those features are in Latin as well, I'd expect that they came more naturally from Russian than Latin, which he learned in school. (Obviously he took more vocabulary from Latin and its Romance descendants than from Russian and Slavic languages, that was a deliberate choice).

I had a quick look around for more info but the only thing I found was this article which I had already read some time ago: https://culture.pl/en/article/how-much-polish-is-there-in-esperanto

This page states that the active and passive participles are found in Russian (my Russian isn't good enough to know if that's true or not, but I'm going to trust it): https://languagelearning.stackexchange.com/questions/2000/which-language-is-most-similar-to-esperanto

Manĝu terpomojn kaj feliĉiĝu!


Actually, the majority of the features which this article ascribe to Polish are in fact more prominent in Eastern Polish dialects close to Belorussian but nevertheless it is very interesting!


ĉu is not from Polish but from a Belorusian dialect, called Polesian. In Polish we use czy, which sounds alike chi


Oh, I thought 'ĉu' simply was the natural 'esperantisation' of czy. Interesting about Polesian, I didn't know about that.


The first three of your points are more prominent in Latin, but the last one might be Slavic. But generally speaking, for me, as a Slavic language speaker, the Esperanto grammar is not similar to any Slavic grammar.


I woke up this morning thinking that one thing Esperanto has which Slavic languages don't (to my knowledge) is a definite article (la/the).


I know academic literatures in portuguese, and also is possible to find books in English, like "The Dangerous Language" by Ulrich Lins.

Bialystok have inspired Zamenhof, but when Esperanto was founded he already had world feeling.

About slavic languages: kolbaso = kolbasa (polish); kurba = kurwa (polish); a lot of prefixes and suffixes and their logics; etc.

Even Volapuk inspired Esperanto in the starting years...

(ps.: sorry for y poor English)


Someday I read something about this language and I "follow in love with it". Esperanto is a very good language, I read, there are some native speakers in Polland and Germany and other European countries


I don't know that anyone has analyzed the reasons for the proportions of source languages in Esperanto.

But remember in the era when it appeared, French was still an international language, and was still perceived as the language of cultured and educated people in many places.

Zamenhof emphasized that he aimed to draw from "the main European languages", so French/romance and German found a prominent place.

But there's plenty of slavic vocabulary, and elements of the grammatical system.

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