Chuck Smith at The Esperanto Language Blog presents 3rd gen native Esperanto speaker: Nicole!; it begins:

Some people don’t believe that native Esperanto speakers exist. Would you then believe that I’ve found a third generation native Esperanto speaker?! Nicole Klünder’s great-grandfather learned Esperanto, taught it natively to his kids, who taught it natively to his kids, who taught it natively to Nicole… awesome! It seems that it’s now becoming a tradition in this blog to interview another native Esperanto speaker every year. Last year, I interviewed an Esperanto DJ: DJ Leo Sakaguchi. The year before was second generation native speaker Rolf Fantom. Anyway, without further ado, let’s see what Nicole has to say! (She answered my questions in Esperanto, so you will find my translation in italics under his answers.)

How did you come to be a third generation native Esperanto speaker?

Mi naskiĝis tielmaniere. Miaj gepatroj instruis ĝin denaske al mi, kaj mia patro estis ankaŭ denaska. Parte certe ankaŭ estis kialo ke miaj gepatroj renkontiĝis per Esperanto, ekzemple mia patrino estis Polino.

I was born that way. My parents taught me it growing up, and my father was also a native speaker. This was certainly also partly since my parents met through Esperanto, for example my mother was Polish.

How did your great-grandfather first learn Esperanto and why? When was that?

Laŭ mia scio, li lernis la lingvon en 1908 por pli bone scii kaj klarigi kial ĝi malbonas. Evidentiĝis, ke ĝi fakte plaĉegis al li.

As far as I know, he learned the language in 1908 to better know and explain why it’s bad. Later, he realized that he actually really liked it.

For those who don’t care about Esperanto or find that piece a bit lightweight, I’ll add a link that has nothing, strictly speaking, to do with LH but which I find extremely interesting, A hydromorphic reevaluation of the forgotten river civilizations of Central Asia, by Willem H. J. Toonen, Mark G. Macklin, Giles Dawkes, Julie A. Durcan, Max Leman, Yevgeniy Nikolayev, and Alexandr Yegorov (PNAS, December 14, 2020):

Our paper challenges the long-held view that the fall of Central Asia’s river civilizations was determined by warfare and the destruction of irrigation infrastructure during the Mongol invasion. An integration of radiometric dating of long-term river dynamics in the region with irrigation canal abandonment shows that periods of cultural decline correlate with drier conditions during multicentennial length periods when the North Atlantic Oscillation had mostly positive index values. There is no evidence that large-scale destruction of irrigation systems occurred during the Arab or Mongol invasion specifically. A more nuanced interpretation identifies chronic environmental challenges to floodwater farming over the last two millennia, punctuated by multicentennial-length periods with favorable hydromorphic and hydroclimatological conditions that enabled irrigation agriculturists to flourish.

I’ve been yammering to people about the destruction of irrigation infrastructure for decades now; I guess I should mail out retractions…


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    The WP page on Esperanto native speakers is interesting, and has some good links; L1 Esperanto is rather different from L2, it seems, not too surprisingly, I suppose.

  2. That PNAS paper is interesting. The dating data are quite noisy, but that is neither surprising nor dispiriting. I see no reason to doubt the paper’s conclusions, regarding that specific site.

    However, any extrapolation to other sites will run into a potentially serious problem. This is a generalization of the usual problem of extrapolating to a target population when the smaller sample population that has actually been studied is not fully representative. (I feel like there should be a name for the fallacy of unjustified extrapolation in such cases, but I cannot come up with it.)

    The issue in this case is that the site that was studied, Otrar, was presumably chosen because of the relatively undisturbed archeological remains to be found there. And the reason, in turn, that Otrar was such a good site was that it was essentially completely abandoned after the Middle Ages, unlike many other sites in Transoxiana, some of which were only abandoned temporarily and others which have been sites of continuous habitation for millennia. A site that was never reoccupied is disproportionately likely to have been negatively affected by permanent natural changes that made it too difficult to farm there. In contrast, sites where the infrastructure was destroyed (possibly by invaders), but the underlying climatic conditions did not change, would be more likely to be eventually reoccupied, and the reoccupation would destroy most of the features that were available to be studied at Otrar.

  3. Thanks, I won’t send out the retractions just yet! (Otrar at LH.)

  4. John Emerson says

    The rewriting of Central Asian history on terms of climate change can be illuminating, but highly exaggerated claims are often made by those with a predeliction for climatic explanations. The Mongol invasions have been explained both by increased and by decreased rainfall, and most recently by first one and then the other. Finally, at least, explanations are being concocted on the basis of actual knowledge about the climate of the time, which wasn’t always the case.

  5. Trond Engen says

    There’s the complicating factor that if all available water is put to use, the rest is a zero sum game. As technology improves, increasingly efficient irrigation upriver makes the downriver settlements gradually dryer, and the result may be that the population moves slowly towards the water source. This has been shown for the Bronze Age oasis culture of Turkmenistan. We could imagine this as cycles where sudden political collapse made the population move to lower lands with better natural irrigation and better soils, and then gradually move back up as the systems were repaired or reinvented.

  6. John Emerson says

    Irrigation demands on the Aral Sea have been so great that it has almost disappeared, and what remains will soon be so salty that only brine shrimp can live in it. The Salton Sea in CA also is disappearing. However, this has only happened in the last century or two.

  7. Trond Engen says

    Yes, they never managed to use all the water of the Amu-Darja, but they might have reduced the waterflow enough that irrigation was no longer possible without pumps or canals that were not available with the technology of the day. What I mean is that what looks like reduced precipitation in the sediments downriver may actually be increased water use upriver, but these causes will be possible to differentiate with the availability of fine-grained climate data, and I’d be surprised if that’s not been attempted also in this study (of which I’ve only read the abstract).

  8. John Emerson says

    In one of Mark Twain’s earliest works he describes Mono Lake, which is very salty. A very simple ecology: algae are eaten by brine shrimp, and then seagulls eat the shrimp. I’m sure that there’s more too it than that, but there’s not much life there.

  9. Before the Salton Sea, the much larger Lake Cahuilla came and went a number of times, as recently as 450 years ago.

  10. It weirds me out to see the en-dash in “during the sixth–eighth centuries CE.” Kudos for not using a hyphen, but using an en-dash for a range between spelled-out numbers requires a very specific and precise amount of proofreading knowledge. (I can’t find any style guide that explicitly says not to do this, but it looks as wrong to me as “twenty-three %”)

  11. John Emerson says

    * de vivre: Facebook ruins everything,especially from where I am. I’m just happy when their autofill doesn’t replace my words with different words.

  12. In Russian when we read this (graphical!!!) representation aloud, we often say “sixth-tiret-eighth” (as one word).

  13. In “The Fall of Civilizations” video series that is available on YouTube, episode 5 deals with the Khmer empire. What brought them down was indeed climate change. Agriculture was based on a elaborate canal system which needed a complex government to maintain it. Climate change brought a number of dry years followed by flooding, and they were just overwhelmed. Of course there were many exacerbating factors, such as extreme income inequality.

  14. Drasvi, your comment reminds of this Leningrad song:

  15. В Питере тире пить!

  16. ə de vivre says

    It’s funny, climate change seems to go in and out of style (just like that gum you like…) in Assyriology. Long-term salinization of agricultural soils used to be a big deal in explaining the collapse of urban centres in southern Mesopotamia. These days, most people who study such things have abandoned the idea (AFAIK, the empirical evidence for chronic salinization has also been rejected, which certainly doesn’t help the argument). The most accepted theory is that the depopulation was due to a changing ideology of warfare that was much more deadly to the population at large and involved more destruction of infrastructure and forced population movements. But now there’s a theory that sees climate change as a major factor in the movement of Amorites and other West Semitic speaking peoples east into Mesopotamia. The idea is that increased aridity in the Jazira eliminated most of the arable land and pastoralized the population. It sounds plausible enough, but I’m not familiar enough with the specifics to say if it’s more likely to hold up than the southern Mesopotamia salinization theory.

  17. John Emerson says

    Note to management: this site urgently needs a Hilaria Baldwin thread! Deep celebrity stuff!

  18. John Emerson says

    * de vivre: The climate explanation for the Mongol invasions goes back more than a century, but only in the last 30 years or so has actual evidence about climate conditions been part of the argument, which remains inconclusive. The reduction of human events to material conditions will always be popular.

    In the case of the Mongols, there’s no particular need to explain the invasions per se, since such invasions had been taking place over and over again during the preceding 2000 years. The question that needs to asked is “Why did the Mongol armies so consistently and so easily defeat every army they faced west of Xinjiang and north of Egypt, while the Chinese were giving them them a tough fight?”

  19. Primary reason why war in China took so long is the fact that the Chinese had lots and lots of fortified towns and even entire fortified lines (the Great Wall and Jin-Song fortified border) which had to be reduced and taken one by one.

    Genghis acquired necessary siege weapons early on, but it still required a lot of manpower which Mongols didn’t have. So they went for easier pickings elsewhere for a while.

    Rashid ad-Din states that to finish off the Song empire, Khubilai Khan conscripted hundreds of thousands of northern Chinese living under his rule and smashed Song defenses with an enormous army of over a million troops – overwhelmingly Chinese infantry at that point.

    So apparently China is one of those empires which not only you can’t rule from horseback, you can’t conquer it on horseback either.

  20. @ Brett
    (I feel like there should be a name for the fallacy of unjustified extrapolation in such cases, but I cannot come up with it.)

    Selection bias?

  21. John Emerson says

    SFReader: One turning point for the Mongols was breaking past the Qaraqitai into Khwarizm (Central Asia). Another turning point was learning siege warfare, presumably from deserters from the N Chinese (Jurchen) military. (Whole units switched sides en masse).

    Conscripted Chinese were often driven before the Mongol armies as unarmed cannon fodder.

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