Infobox Language

creator=Johann Martin Schleyer
setting=International: mostly in Europe
speakers=20 [http://www.villagevoice.com/arts/0031,lafarge,16942,12.html "Pük, Memory: Why I Learned a Universal Language No One Speaks"] by Paul LaFarge. "The Village Voice", August 2000.]
fam2=international auxiliary language
posteriori=vocabulary from English, German and French

Volapük (pronounced|volaˈpyk, or IPAEng|ˈvɒləpʊk in English [OED] ) is a constructed language, created in 1879-1880 by Johann Martin Schleyer, a Roman Catholic priest in Baden, Germany. Schleyer felt that God had told him in a dream to create an international language. Volapük conventions took place in 1884 (Friedrichshafen), 1887 (Munich) and 1889 (Paris). The first two conventions used German, and the last conference used only Volapük. In 1889, there were an estimated 283 clubs, 25 periodicals in or about Volapük, and 316 textbooks in 25 languages. [http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/Volapuk/HBoV/ Handbook of Volapük] , Charles E. Sprague (1888)] Today there are an estimated 20-30 Volapük speakers in the world. Volapük was largely displaced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by simpler and more easily-learned languages, such as Esperanto and Latino Sine Flexione.



Note: "ä", "ö" and "ü" do not have alternative forms such as the "ae", "oe" and "ue" of German or the "cxu", "gxi" etc. of Esperanto.


Schleyer adapted the vocabulary mostly from English, with a smattering of German and French. Some words are modified beyond easy recognizability, though many others remain readily recognizable for a speaker of one of the source languages."For example, while it is true that words like vol and pük don't really look like world and speak, but the whole language is not like that. Scores of words are very obvious as what they mean - if, fasilik,gudik/badik, smalik, jerik (pronounced sxerik' - expensive), bank, bäk (back), deadik." — [http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0511C&L=AUXLANG&P=R231&D=0&T=0 "What the L!"] , AUXLANG list posting by Thomas Alexander, 15 November 2005.] For instance, "vol" and "pük" are derived from the English words "world" and "speak". Polysyllabic words are always stressed on the final syllable, regardless of how the source language places the stress. Although unimportant linguistically, and regardless of the simplicity and consistency of the stress rule, these deformations were greatly mocked by the language's detractors. It seems to have been Schleyer's intention, however, to alter its loan words in such a way that they would be hard to recognise, thus losing their ties to the languages (and, by extension, nations) they came from. Compare the common criticism that Esperanto and Interlingua are much easier to learn for Europeans than for those with non-European native languages.The letter "r" was avoided in Schleyer's original Volapük, on the principle that it would be difficult for Chinese speakers to pronounce. In the adoption of foreign roots "r" was generally changed to "l", e.g. English "rose" becomes "lol". However, Arie de Jong added /r/ in his revision of the language; the modern form has minimal pairs such as "rel" "religion" vs "lel" "iron". Other phonemes difficult for speakers of many languages (such as "ö" /ø/ and "ü" /y/) are common.Front rounded vowels such as /y/ and /ø/ occur in only 7.10% of the languages in the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database. [http://web.phonetik.uni-frankfurt.de/cgi-bin/upsid_sounds.cgi] ]

The grammar is roughly based on that of Indo-European languages but with a regularized agglutinative character: grammatical features are indicated by putting together unchanging elements, rather than shifting, multi-meaning inflections.

As in German, the Volapük noun has four cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. In compound words, the first part of the compound is usually separated from the second by the genitive termination "-a", e.g. "Vola-pük", "of-world language". However, the other case endings ("-e" dative, "-i" accusative) are sometimes used, or the roots may be agglutinated in the nominative, with no separating vowel.

The following is the declension of the Volapük word "vol", "world":

Adjectives, formed by the suffix "-ik", normally follow the noun they modify. They do not agree with the noun in number and case unless they precede the noun or stand alone. Adverbs are formed by suffixing "-o", either to the root or to the adjectival "-ik"; they normally follow the verb or adjective they modify.

The verb carries a fine degree of detail, with morphemes marking tense, aspect, voice, person, number and (in the third person) the subject's gender. However, many of these categories are optional, and a verb can stand in an unmarked state. A Volapük verb can be conjugated in 1,584 ways (including infinitives and reflexives).

Not only verbs, adjectives and adverbs, but prepositions, conjunctions and interjections can be formed from noun roots by appending appropriate suffixes.


Schleyer first published a sketch of Volapük in May 1879 in "Sionsharfe", a Catholic poetry magazine of which he was editor. This was followed in 1880 by a full-length book in German. Schleyer himself did not write books on Volapük in other languages, but other authors soon did.

André Cherpillod writes of the third Volapük convention,

:In August 1889 the third convention was held in Paris. About two hundred people from many countries attended. And, unlike in the first two conventions, people spoke only Volapük. For the first time in the history of mankind, sixteen years before the Boulogne convention, an international convention spoke an international language.Foreword to "Konciza Gramatiko de Volapuko", André Cherpillod. Courgenard, 1995.]

The Flemish cryptographer Dr. Auguste Kerckhoffs was for a number of years Director of the Academy of Volapük, and introduced the movement to several countries. However tensions arose between Dr. Kerckhoffs and others in the Academy, who wanted reforms made to the language, and Schleyer, who insisted strongly on retaining his proprietary rights. This led to schism, with much of the Academy abandoning Schleyer's Volapük in favor of Idiom Neutral and other new constructed language projects. Another reason for the decline of Volapük may have been the rise of Esperanto. In 1887, the first Esperanto book ("Unua Libro") was published. As the language was easier to learn, many Volapük clubs became Esperanto clubs. By 1900, there were only 159 members of Volapük clubs recognized by Schleyer.

In the 1920s, Arie de Jong, with the consent of the leaders of the small remnant of Volapük speakers, made a revision of Volapük which was published in 1931. This revision was accepted by the few speakers of the language. De Jong simplified the grammar, eliminating some rarely-used verb forms, and eliminated some perceived sexism in the pronouns and gendered verb endings. He also rehabilitated the phoneme /r/ and used it to make some morphemes more recognizable. For instance, "lömib" "rain" became "rein".

Volapük enjoyed a brief renewal of popularity in the Netherlands and Germany under de Jong's leadership, but was suppressed (along with other constructed languages) in countries under Nazi rule and never recovered.

There are an estimated 20 Volapük speakers in the world today. There has been a continuous Volapük speaker community since Schleyer's time, with an unbroken succession of "Cifals" (leaders), the current cifal being Mr. Brian R. Bishop.

Large Volapük collections are held by the International Esperanto Museum [http://www.onb.ac.at/sammlungen/plansprachen/eo/index.htm] in Vienna, Austria; the Centre de documentation et d'étude sur la langue internationale in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland; and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/v/volapuk.htm]

Examples (1880 version)

The Lord's Prayer

:O Fat obas, kel binol in süls, paisaludomöz nem ola!:Kömomöd monargän ola!:Jenomöz vil olik, äs in sül, i su tal!:Bodi obsik vädeliki givolös obes adelo!:E pardolös obes debis obsik,:äs id obs aipardobs debeles obas.:E no obis nindukolös in tendadi;:sod aidalivolös obis de bad.:Jenosöd!

Examples (1930 version)

The Lord's Prayer

:O Fat obas, kel binol in süls! Nem olik pasalüdükonöd!:Regän ola kömonöd!:Vil olik jenonöd, äsä in sül, i su tal!:Givolös obes adelo bodi aldelik obsik!:E pardolös obes döbotis obsik,:äsä i obs pardobs utanes, kels edöbons kol obs.:E no blufodolös obis,:ab livükolös obis de bad!:(Ibä dutons lü ol regän, e nämäd e glor jü ün laidüp.):So binosös!

Sample text

"Ven lärnoy püki votik, vödastok plösenon fikulis. Mutoy ai dönu sukön vödis nesevädik, e seko nited paperon. In dil donatida, ye, säkäd at pebemaston, bi tradut tefik vöda alik pubon dis vöds Volapükik. Välot reidedas sökon, e pamobos, das vöds Volapükik pareidons laodiko. Gramat e stabavöds ya pedunons in nüdug; too loged viföfik traduta pakomandos ad garanön, das sinif valodik pegeton. Binos prinsip sagatik, kel sagon, das stud nemödik a del binos gudikum, ka stud mödik süpo."

"Translation":When one is learning another language, vocabulary presents difficulties. One must continuously search for unknown words, and consequently interest is lost. In the elementary part, however, this problem has been overcome, because the relevant translation of each word appears below the Volapük words. A selection of readings follows, and it is suggested that the Volapük words be read out loud. The grammar and a basic vocabulary have already been done in the introduction; nevertheless, a quick glance at the translation is recommended to ensure that the overall meaning has been acquired. There is a maxim which states that a little study a day is better than a lot of study all at once.


The word is also used in slang Danish, and Russian, to mean "nonsense" and "gibberish".

In Esperanto, a rival constructed language, the expression "Tio estas volapukaĵo por mi" (that is a Volapük-thing for me) is sometimes used meaning "I can't understand this" or "this is nonsense".

ee also

*Volapuk encoding


External links

* [http://members.xoom.it/volapuk/ A complete Italian grammar of Volapük (1888) by V. Amoretti]
* [http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/Volapuk/VolVifik/volvif00.html A ten-lesson course] in modern Volapük
* [http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/Volapuk/ Volapük links page]
* [http://www.rickharrison.com/language/dejong.html "Arie de Jong's Revision of Volapük (1931)"] by Ed Robertson. From the 21st edition of the "Journal of Planned Languages", 1995.
* [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Volapuk Article on Volapük from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica]
* [http://member.netease.com/~htliu/biblio.html#chap2 Volapük bibliography]
* [http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/volapuk Volapükalised] - A Volapük group on Yahoo!, general discussion in Volapük about any topic and about Volapük in various other languages
* [http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/voydasbuk Vödasbukalised] - Volapük terminology group on Yahoo!
* [http://web.icq.com/groups/group_details?gid=11998108 Glup ICQ Volapükik]
* [http://www.homunculus.com/babel/avolapuk.html Blueprints for Babel: Volapük] - A summary of the grammar of Volapük
* "A Hand-book of Volapük", by Andrew Drummond - comic historical novel. ISBN 1904598676
* [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/5037/AILvol.html Chapter on Volapük] in Otto Jespersen's "An International Language" (1928)
* [http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/Volapuk/Misc/eng-vol.htm English-Volapük dictionary] - Compiled by Ralph Midgley (1998)
* [http://menefebal.blogspot.com/ Blog in Volapük]

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  • Volapük — or Volapuk [vō′lə pook΄, väl′əpook΄] n. [< Volapük vol, world (altered < WORLD) + a , connective + pük, language (altered < SPEAK)] an invented language, devised (c. 1879) by German clergyman J. M. Schleyer (1831 1912), for proposed use… …   English World dictionary

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