The Language Archive

by Julia Cho

January 26 – February 14, 2016 In this lyrical, bittersweet comedy, George, a linguist consumed with preserving the dying languages of far-flung cultures, is losing his chance to preserve another language when its last two speakers refuse to talk to each other. Closer to home, though, language is failing him. He doesn’t know what to say to his wife, Mary, to keep her from leaving him, and he doesn’t recognize the deep feelings that his lab assistant, Emma, has for him. Is love a universal language or just a well-intentioned dream that leaves us all at a loss for words?

Directed by Adam Immerwahr

“The Language Archive is an elegant, graceful confection of a play…” –DC Theatre Scene



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Building a Language: The Creation of Esperanto Esperanto is the most widely used international constructed language in the world. Created by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, Esperanto allows people who speak different native languages to communicate, yet at the same time, retain their own languages and cultural identities.

Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof

Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof

Zamenhof, a Polish physician and oculist, was born on December 15, 1859 in the Polish city of Białystok. It was home to a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic mixture of Poles, Russians, Jews, Lithuanians, and Germans. He believed that much of the distrust and misunderstanding between these different ethnic groups was a result of language differences. He resolved to create an international language which could be used to help break down the language barriers.

After years of experiment in devising such a tongue, working under the pseudonym of “Doktoro Esperanto”, he published an expository textbook, Lingvo Internacia in 1887. His pseudonym, Esperanto (“one who hopes”), was to become the language’s name.

With some literary and linguistic skill, Zamenhof developed and tested his new language by translating a large number of works, including the Old Testament, Hamlet, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and plays of Molière, Goethe, and Nikolay Gogol. At the first international Esperanto congress at Boulogne, France (1905), and at successive annual congresses in various European cities, Zamenhof delivered a number of memorable addresses, but he renounced formal leadership of the Esperanto movement at Kraków, Poland, in 1912. Zamenhof died on April 14, 1917 in Warsaw.

Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof at his desk

Zamenhof at his desk

Today Esperanto is spoken all over the world and particularly popular in Eastern Europe and China. There is a flourishing Esperanto literature including books, magazines, and poetry. Some of the literary works are originally written in Esperanto while others are translated from other languages. There are also Esperanto songs and a number of radio stations broadcast news bulletins in Esperanto. There are approximately 1,000 native speakers of Esperanto, 10,000 people can speak Esperanto fluently, 100,000 can use it actively, 1 million understand a lot of Esperanto, and about 10 million have studied it to some extent.



The History of Languages in Bristol 

Nora Thompson Dean (1907-1984)

Nora Thompson Dean (1907-1984)

Early Languages

The Lenni Lenape tribe settled in the area that would become Bristol, and their language is Unami, one of the two Delaware Native American languages, the other being Munsee. In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and surrounding territory) under the Indian removal policy. The last known fluent speaker, Edward Thompson, of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, died on August 31, 2002. His sister Nora Thompson Dean (1907–1984) provided valuable information about the language to linguists and other scholars.

William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape, by Benjamin West

William Penn’s 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape, by Benjamin West

Before the arrival of the English, a few Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish settlers inhabited the area along the Delaware River, between the Falls and the Schuylkill, hunting, fishing, and trading with the local Native American tribes.


In 1681, English-born Samuel Clift obtained a grant for two hundred and sixty-two acres from Sir Edmond Andros, Provincial Governor of New York, covering the site of Bristol, and soon after became a resident there. By 1697, Buckingham (Bristol) experienced a significant growth in population, and it was petitioned to officially become a town.

Bristol's Annual Puerto Rican Day, 2012

Bristol’s Annual Puerto Rican Day, 2012

The second half of the 1800s and first half of the 1900s brought many new industries and job opportunities to Bristol. With this prosperity brought waves of new immigrants to the area, including African-Americans, Celtics, Italians, and Latinos, looking for job opporunties and creating a town rich in diversity and culture, as well as history. English is still the dominant language. As families move and generations go on, Celtic and Italian are spoken less. However, Spanish continues to thrive in the Bristol area.



Behind-the-Curtain of The Language Archive

Check out the trailer for The Language Archive

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