Esperanto and a polyglot phrasebook

First, from Javier Alcalde, a bibliography of Esperanto:

Selected bibliography on Esperanto and the First World War:


About the history of international auxiliary languages


Eco, Umberto (1995). The Search for the Perfect Language. The making of Europe. Blackwell. (available in a number of languages, including Italian, French, German, Japanese, Esperanto)

Gordin, Michael D. (2015). Scientific Babel. How science was done before and after global English. University of Chicago Press.


Okrent, Arika (2009.) In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau.


About the Esperanto movement
Foster, Peter G. (1982). The Esperanto movement. Berlin: Mouton/De Gruyter.


Garvía, Roberto (2015). Esperanto and Its Rivals. The struggle for an international language. University of Pennsylvania Press.


Lins, Ulrich (2016). Dangerous language — Esperanto under Hitler and Stalin. Vol I. Palgrave. (also available in Japanese, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Korean, Esperanto)


Lins, U. (2017). Dangerous language — Esperanto & the decline of Stalinism. Vol II. Palgrave. (available in Japanese, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Korean, Esperanto)


Schor, Esther (2016). Bridge of Words. Esperanto and the dream of a universal language. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.


About Esperanto literature

Sutton, Geoffrey H. (2008). Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto. New York: Mondial.

Gubbins, Paul (ed.) (2012). Star in a Night Sky: An Anthology of Esperanto Literature. London: Francis Boutle Publishers.
Minnaja, Carlo; Silfer, Giorgio (2015). Historio de la esperanta literaturo. La Chaux – de – Fonds, Switzerland: Kooperativo de Literatura Foiro.


About the First World War

Alcalde, Javier & José Salguero (ed.) (2018). Antaŭ unu jarcento. La granda milito kaj Esperanto. Paris: SAT-EFK.

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. Plansprachen und der Erste Weltkrieg. 40 digitalized books. All available at:

Related journal: Language Problems and Language Planning. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Comments & suggestions:



From Stefan Bannò we have some pages from the polyglot phrasebook prepared by Alexander Amersdorffer and Willhelm Doegen.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 18.12.10Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 18.12.02Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 18.11.50


We add here the title page and preface to the phrasebook


and for comparison, a page from F Wolfson’s Deutsch-Französischer Kriegs-Dolmetscher  published the following year.


What specifically is the purpose of the phrasebook? Explicitly ‘so dass jedermann die zur Verständigung ausreichenden kurzen Sätze selbst bilden kann’ (so that anyone can form the short sentences that are sufficient for understanding). This is a Kriegs-Dolmetscher, a war interpreter, which makes no reference to Doegen’s work as a philologist with Phonographische Kommission, whose recordings, according to , date from 29 December 1915. This book is as belligerent a preparation for invasion as Wolfson’s, and its being published in Berlin rather than Leipzig, centre of publishing in Germany at the time, and in 1915, might indicate its being nearer the seat of authority. Simon Constantine (1) includes it with others ‘which anticipated an impending invasion of [British] territory’; this would be because it provides orders for an occupying force to communicate with locals, and gives these in English. As it gives these also in Italian, this book would also be aimed at Austro-Hungarian troops operating within Italian territory.


A further note is the inconsistency in Amersdorffer and Doegen’s phrasebook, the absolutely natural English of ‘I don’t want any noise in the house’, compared to the continual misunderstanding of the ‘in case’ construction: here it is used to mean ‘if’, rather than ‘if it should happen that’. Hmm, difficult to explain: ‘I will take an umbrella if it rains’ implies two events in the same time-frame; ‘I will take an umbrella in case it rains’ implies two time-frames, taking an umbrella first, and the hypothetical rain later. So, ‘You will be punished, in case you make any signals to the English troops’ means ‘You will be punished to prevent you making any signals to the English troops’. Some of the pronunciation is wayward too – ‘hosstitsch’ for ‘hostage’, ‘attäckss’ for ‘attacks’, and ‘kamm bäck hia ätt’ for ‘come back here at’. The implicit invasion would have struggled if the first approaches had sounded like ‘ das änni uwann sspihk dschäminn?’ Maybe the Phonographische Kommission helped, later on.


(1) Simon Constantine (2013) ‘If an inhabitant attacks, wound, or kills a soldier, the whole village will be destroyed’: Communication and Rehearsal in Soldiers’ Phrasebooks 1914-18, Journal of War & Culture Studies, 6:2, 154-168, DOI: 10.1179/1752627213Z.00000000014




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