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Esperanto falls within the category of planned international auxiliary languages, which, as such, are always lingua francas (languages for interethnic communication) and therefore used as second languages. Specialists divide planned auxiliary languages into two groups: a) autonomous (independent of ethnic languages), like Esperanto; b) naturalistic (keeping word forms, etc. of ethnic languages) like, for example, Interlingua.
So far, Esperanto - whose history dates back 1887, when the first handbook was published by L. Zamenhof, a Polish eye specialist - has been the most successful planned auxiliary language. About 80% of the word roots are of Latin-Romance origin, therefore Esperanto is close to the Indo-European language family as regards vocabulary and grammar. However, it is also similar to languages like Turkish and Finnish because of its regular word-building by adding suffixes to word roots (in linguistics this is called "agglutination"). With regard to users, in theory at least 500 million native speakers of Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, etc.), as well as of English and other Germanic languages should be able to understand written and spoken Esperanto after little training. Probably between 50,000 and 100,000 people now speak it quite frequently as a second or third language.
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