The Esperantic Studies Foundation (ESF) was established in 1968 by Dr. Humphrey Tonkin (a humanities scholar with strong interests in international education), Dr. Jonathan Pool (a political scientist interested in language issues) and Dr. E. James Lieberman (a psychiatrist concerned with communication). The Foundation was conceived as a vehicle for promoting scholarly research and dialogue on issues concerned with world language problems and policies, including the planned international language Esperanto.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, ESF focused primarily on Esperanto education and research initiatives. In 1972, it published—in collaboration with the School for International Training (SIT) in Vermont—a Basic Esperanto Course. It also produced a series of research bibliographies entitled Esperanto and International Problems, edited by Humphrey Tonkin. In 1986 it sponsored the participation in the World Esperanto Congress in Beijing of a leading U.S. journalist, James Fallows, and a noted Creole linguist, Albert Valdman.
In the early 1990s, ESF began to expand its activities. Anthropologist Dr. David Jordan (UCSD) joined the board, and in 1991 the Foundation published the first issue of its official newsletter, Esperantic Studies. The following year saw the release of Esperanto and Education: Toward a Research Agenda. This report, prepared by Drs. Alvino Fantini (SIT) and Timothy Reagan (CCSU), sought to identify areas of concern relevant to Esperanto education and opportunities for future research. In 1995, ESF established an Advisory Board comprised of experts in such fields as linguistics, language policy and planning and Esperanto. This year also marked the launch of the Foundation’s first website.
In 1999, ESF received a bequest of approximately $3 million from Catherine and William Schulze. The Schulzes were prominent US Esperantists, whose activities included the long-running Esperanto program at San Francisco State University (later renamed NASK – Nord-Amerika Somera Kursaro). With this generous gift, ESF was able to lay the groundwork for an ambitious research and education agenda (program).
Later that year, Dr. Mark Fettes became ESF’s first Executive Director. The Foundation established its Interlingual Research Grant Program. Under this program, scholars can apply for grants of typically $10,000 to pursue research on topics that fall within the field of interlinguistics. Also this year, ESF funded the completion of the 12 lesson Esperanto course Pasporto al la Tuta Mondo.
In 2001, Dr. Grant Goodall (a linguistics scholar at UCSD) joined the board and later that year, ESF funded the Phase I development of the innovative Esperanto teaching resource website Edukado.net. This unique resource has continued to be developed and managed by Dr. Katalin Kovats.
The following year saw the Foundation continue to expand its Board of Directors. Dr. Ian Richmond, a French language scholar with strong interests in international communication, joined the board. That year also saw ESF fund another of its core educational programs: the Lernu.net website and online community. Lernu.net is a leading-edge language learning technology platform. Visitors to the website are able to learn Esperanto at their own pace in a rich multimedia environment and at no cost. The site has undergone continuous enhancements under the direction of Sonja Petrović and an expert team of technologists.
In 2003, one of ESF’s original founders, Dr. Jim Lieberman, retired after 34 years of dedicated service. ESF continued to fulfill its mission to support compelling research and educational projects in North America and throughout the world. A notable research project that was launched this year was the Esperanto Text Corpus. ESF commissioned noted Esperanto grammarian Bertil Wennergren to create the corpus. It currently contains almost 5 million words and is available to researchers online.
Dr. Timothy Reagan, a long-time ESF collaborator and a Professor of Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University, joined the board in 2004. Throughout that year, ESF continued to support its ongoing programs as well as provide Interlingual Research Grants to qualified researchers. In 2005, the Foundation established a Post-Doctoral Research Support Program with The Center For Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the United States. ESF has since provided several research grants to Columbia post-doctoral researchers who have pursued interlinguistics-related projects. Also this year, ESF sponsored the 4th Nitobe Symposium in Bratislava, Slovakia. This symposium brought together language policy researchers and members of government from the European Union to discuss language policy and planning issues in an expanding European Union. ESF has since sponsored a subsequent Nitobe event in Yokohama, Japan in 2007 that focused on the linguistic dimensions of Asian integration and globalization.
Since 2006, ESF has continued to expand its board of directors and advisory board. Dr. Bonnie Fonseca-Greber, a French language and international communication scholar, joined the board as well as Mr. Wallace Du Temple, an educator and global education advocate. The Foundation continues to support ongoing programs and provide research grants to qualified applicants. More recently, it has launched an ambitious project with Christer Lörnemark to develop a Spoken Word Esperanto Corpus. Phase I has already been completed and Phase II is currently underway.
The Esperantic Studies Foundation remains committed to supporting a broad range of interlingual research and educational initiatives throughout the world. Researchers and educators who are seeking support for interlingual projects are encouraged to browse through this website to learn more about whether ESF can offer guidance and/or funding support.