Arcaicam Esperantom

Esperanto, a language constructed by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887, was designed to be a modern language for the whole world to speak: the aim was to create a politically neutral language that was easy to learn, which would help not only foster communication between those in different countries, but also improve international relations by giving them some common ground.

The thing is, Esperanto never really caught on as Zamenhof had hoped. While it is still spoken by a small percentage of people in the world, it has a long way to go before it will be used as any kind of lingua franca.

A constructed language is just that – constructed. While the roots of Esperanto came from a variety of languages, unlike every other language it had no linguistic development – it was invented and simply sprung into existence. While every other language has some kind of more archaic form (for English think Shakespeare or Chaucer) and develops over centuries due to outside influences, common usage and, in many cases, a ruling academy, Esperanto never had any of these things.

That is, until Manuel Halvelik added another layer to Esperanto by creating Arcaicam Esperantom – Archaic Esperanto. His main purpose was to create a hypothetical “old” form of Esperanto.

Unlike many other languages, Archaic Esperanto is relatively easy to learn for Esperanto speakers: it consists of several key differences in spelling, word formation and other stylistic variants. However, like Esperanto, it is still regular. By following the rules set out by Halvelik, modern Esperanto speakers can easily translate to and from Arcaicam Esperantom.

I find it fascinating that a new language can be retroactively coined to create an older form of another language, as it creates all kinds of inconsistencies: not only the fact that nobody ever spoke the archaic form per se, but also that the ‘older’ form of the language is actually newer, and that the ‘old’ form is based from the new form, rather than the other way around.