Claude Piron

Lettre à Lyndon LaRouche

Jen mia respondo al la reago de Lyndon LaRouche al mia rebato pri liaj diroj koncerne LLZ kaj Eo. Mia unua reago estis al franclingva teksto, kiu poste rivelighis esti traduko de prelego anglalingva. Mi ricevis lian respondon pere de asocio, kiu proponis al mi francigi ghin, en la kazo, se mi ne komprenus la anglan. Ghi tekstis jene:

"There are no good excuses for promoting esperanto. The arguments you outline for it are specious.

The essence of any language its is national-historical cultural content, embedded in its Rabelaisian-like and other ironies. My studies of this date back to 1847, when I was engaged in a study of the expression of schizophrenia in certain modalities in the use of language. Esperanto would qualify as a program for the promotion of psychopathological traits of what were named in France as "anomie."

The alternative is, formally, to learn more languages. The deeper solution, is to understand the way in which, I, for example, employ irony to convey any important conceptions which I wish to communicate. Esperanto, by its nature, is technically incapable of irony. Read, for a beginning, William Empson's "Seven Types of Ambiguitiy."



Mi do decidis respondi angle. 

Dear Mr LaRouche,

Thank you for your reply to my comments.

You will find it hard to believe me, but, just as with other languages, Esperanto's "historical cultural content" is "embedded in its Rabelaisian-like and other ironies". When I lecture about Zamenhof's language, I often compare it to Rabelais's work. Rabelais' way of using language has more in common with today's Esperanto, an extremely free, humorous and creative tongue, than with today's French, which has become a rather rigid one. And irony has occupied a large place in Esperanto productions from the very start. The songs that were sung at the Parisian Esperanto cabaret "La tri koboldoj" ("The three imps"), making fun of politicians and other public figures, as did the songs of their French speaking counterparts, the "chansonniers", were always full of irony. The same may be said of the works of the Esperanto humorist Raymond Schwartz, whose way of playing with language has quite a Rabelaisian touch. Or take Jorge Camacho's pamphlet "La majstro kaj Martinelli", which ridicules with enjoyable finesse the pretentious Esperanto author G.S. If that is not irony, I do not know what irony is.

You add: "Esperanto would qualify as a program for the promotion of psychopathological traits of what were named in France as anomie." Well, as both a psychotherapist and a speaker of Esperanto since childhood, I can only take exception to such an assertion, which I challenge you to back up with facts or observations. As a matter of fact, Esperanto has, in a number of cases, a therapeutic effect. It liberates the mind, enhancing its flexibility, because it makes available, to express thoughts and feelings, a much wider spectrum of formulas than national languages. And it affords a way of dealing with feelings which is much more nuancé than what national languages offer [see pages 264-267 of my book "Le défi des langues" (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2d ed. 2001)]. There is more laughing and more spontaneity in an international group speaking Esperanto than in a similar group using a national language or communicating through an interpreter, and both laughing and spontaneity correlate positively with a high degree of mental health. I've researched the psychology of Esperanto speakers (see for instance, at, my article "Psychological Aspects of the World Language Problem and of Esperanto", unfortunately a not very good rendering, made by an unknown amateur translator, of the Esperanto original), and I can tell you that the use of Esperanto produces no more and no less pathological traits than you find in a random sample from a comparable population.

According to you, "There are no good excuses for promoting esperanto ". Indeed, there are no good excuses. Why should they be excuses? There is nothing to be ashamed of in helping people with different languages to communicate with ease and on an equal footing by adopting the best method of overcoming language barriers that research can come out with (see my paper "Linguistic Communication -- A Comparative Field Sudy", again through So, if there are no excuses, there are excellent reasons. Many relate to democracy, to culture, to pedagogy, to psychology, to sociology and other fields. Some of them pertain to economics. Your fellow economist Prof. François Grin deals with them in his comprehensive report "L'enseignement des langues étrangères comme politique publique" , a report produced at the request of the "Haut Conseil de l'évaluation de l'école" <> of the French Ministry of Education. You can download the report clicking on You'll find in it a lot of good reasons, based on factual data, for promoting Esperanto.

Did you realize that your sentence about the promotion of psychopathological traits could be felt as offensive by speakers of Esperanto, and by me in particular? It would be normal for me to take it as an insult. But I prefer to view it with humor. I hope you will forgive me if I shock you - and I beg you to read this paragraph up to the end before getting mad at me - but I can't resist the pleasure to reciprocate. So let me give you tit for tat. As you certainly know, since you were "engaged in a study of the expression of schizophrenia", one of the criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia is that the person is detached, or alienated, from reality. Well, your approach to Esperanto reveals a lack of relationship to reality which most of my colleagues would classify as pathological. For a specialist, it is obvious that the word "Esperanto" touches in you what is called a "complex" in psychopathology. Your position is defensive : it is derived from premisses never questioned, never confronted to other equally valid premisses, nor checked against the facts. A hint to its affectively loaded roots is given by the strong emotional implication your wording evidences : only a person in the grip of some passion can describe as "un pédant mentalement moribond" a man who can be documented as being lively, intellectually brilliant and absolutely free from pedantism. Such a contempt is all the more unwarranted since you feel it before trying to gather at least a modicum of information about the person so characterized, and without producing one single fact on which to base your final condemnation. Such an a priori rejection is both unfair and irrational. Neither in law nor in science does one conclude on such inexistent grounds. Moreover, it is manifest that you are not aware that your judgment lacks any foundation, nor that such an approach is farther away from an ideal of mental health than an approach based on research, study, experience, self-questioning, testing of hypotheses, confrontation of divergent reports, verification and other ways of considering the validity of one's assertions. So, where is the most marked psychopathology ?

Two other traits point to a complex underlying your attitude. First, your obvious closed-mindedness : your affirmations leave no room to even a tiny doubt, nor do you envisage to weigh your opinion against others'. For instance, when you say "Esperanto, by its nature, is technically incapable of irony", you don't explain what, in Esperanto's nature, makes it incompatible with irony, you don't face up to the fact that the opposite can readily be proved, you just assert, as though the strength of your assertion could make up for its lack of basis in reality. I guess you simply cannot imagine that language might be something else than what you fancy (I strongly hope that this derives only from a lack of awareness and that, being apprized of the facts, your mind will open up). Second, your self-centeredness : you purport to answer my comments, but you address none of my remarks specifically. As if declaring me wrong in general was sufficient to nullify my evidence.

Of course, when I refer to your attitude about Esperanto as pathological, I pass no judgment on your personal mental health. For one thing, this is a complex shared by an immense part of society, so that it relates more to mental contamination than to individual pathology (see my paper "Psychological Reactions To Esperanto", also accessible through For another, no human being is free from such complexes, they just concern different themes in each individual. So the disfunctioning, in your case, may be limited to the field of language, or maybe even just of Esperanto. In the economic part of the text which induced me to write to you there is no trace of a complex or of any pathology. I consider here only the paragraph where, for no comprehensible reason, you suddenly gave vent to your negative feelings about Esperanto. And in any case, such complexes do not prevent us from being fully sane in all other aspects of life.

I wonder why the concept of Esperanto triggers off in you such a scornful, irrational response, since, obviously, you have never gotten in touch, in real life, with that language or with people who speak it everyday. Do you have an idea ? If you would be kind enough to enlighten me, I 'd be very thankful, since I've never stopped gathering material for my study of psychological reactions to Esperanto. I would be very much interested in a response to this e-mail, but if you deem it useless, I am prepared to assume the frustration.

I could have dealt in length with your statement that "The essence of any language its is national-historical cultural content", pointing out that while this is true for most languages, there are notable exceptions, as Provençal / Occitan, a full-fledged language, with a rich historical content, but without a national one, or Swahili, which resulted from interactions among people with widely different language backgrounds (there has never been a Swahili people, let alone a nation), but you may already feel me as a pain in the neck, so I'd better stop here.

Respectfully yours,