Volapük (/ˈvɒləpʊk/ in English; [volaˈpyk] in Volapük) is a
constructed language, created in 1879 and 1880 by Johann Martin
Schleyer, a Roman Catholic priest in Baden, Germany. Schleyer felt
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; at that time the language claimed nearly
a million adherents.
Volapük was largely displaced in the late
19th and early 20th centuries by Esperanto.
2 Orthography and pronunciation
Special consonantal letters
2.2 Letter r
2.3 Syllabic stress
4.2 Adjectives and adverbs
5.1 The Lord's Prayer
5.2 Sample text
6 Usage as common noun
7 See also
9 External links
9.3 The original Volapük
9.4 The 1931 revised Volapük
9.6 Handbooks, grammars and dictionaries
Volapük links and bibliographies
Commemorative inscription for J. M. Schleyer on the wall of the
parsonage in Litzelstetten, Constance, written in
Volapük and German:
Menade bal – püki bal
Eine Menschheit – eine Sprache
(One mankind – one language)
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
André Cherpillod writes of the third
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.
The Dutch cryptographer
Auguste Kerckhoffs was for a number of years
Director of the Academy of Volapük, and introduced the movement to
several countries. The French Association for the
Volapük was authorized on 8 April 1886, with A.
Lourdelet as President and a central committee that included the
deputy Edgar Raoul-Duval. However, tensions arose between
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
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. Many
Volapük clubs became
Esperanto clubs.
By 1890 the movement was in disarray, with violent arguments among the
members. Schleyer resigned from the
Volapük Academy and created a
rival academy. Derived languages such as Nal Bino, Balta, Bopal,
Spelin, Dil and Orba were invented and quickly forgotten. By
1900 there were only 159 members of
Volapük clubs recognized by
Schleyer. The umlauts, which may have been one of the reasons for
the language's eventual decline into obscurity, were the subject of
ridicule. For example, the
Milwaukee Sentinel published the
A charming young student of Grük
Once tried to acquire Volapük
But it sounded so bad
That her friends called her mad,
And she quit it in less than a wük.
1898 broadsheet advertising Volapük.
In the 1920s, Arie de Jong, with the consent of the leaders of the
small remnant of
Volapük speakers, made a revision of
was published in 1931 (now called
Volapük Nulik "New Volapük" as
opposed to the
Volapük Rigik 'Original Volapük' of Schleyer). 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 gendered 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
Regarding the success of this artificial language, the Spanish
Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Santiago Ramón y Cajal wrote in the first edition of his
Tonics of Willingness, in 1898:
Nowadays, many scientific papers are published in more than six
languages. To the likely attempt of restoring Latin or using Esperanto
as the universal language of science, wise men have responded by
multiplying the number of languages in which scientific works are
published. We have to acknowledge that
practically one more language to be learnt. This result was
predictable because neither the essentially popularized and democratic
tendencies of modern knowledge, nor the economic views of authors and
editors consent in a different way.
However, some years later (1920), in the third edition of the same
book, he added the following footnote to the former assertion: "As it
was presumable, nowadays -1920-, the brand new
Volapük has been
forgotten definitively. We forecast the same for Esperanto."
Volapük collections are held by the International Esperanto
Museum  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
American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. In 2000 there were an estimated 20
in the world.
In December 2007 it was reported that the
Volapük version of
had recently jumped to 15th place among language editions,
with more than 112,000 articles.  A few months earlier there had
been only 797 articles. The massive increase in the size of
"Vükiped", bringing it ahead of the Esperanto, was due to
an enthusiast who had used a computer program to automatically create
geographical articles, many on small villages. The motive was to gain
visibility for the language. By March 2013 the Esperanto
Wikipedia, with a very active user community, had risen to 176,792
articles, while the
Volapük had at that point 119,091
There has been a continuous
Volapük speaker community since
Schleyer's time, with an unbroken succession of Cifals (leaders).
Johann Martin Schleyer
Johann Martin Schleyer 1879–1912
Albert Sleumer 1912–1948
Arie de Jong
Arie de Jong (provisionally) 1947–1948, 1951–1957
Jakob Sprenger 1948–1950
Johann Schmidt 1950–1977
Johann Krüger 1977–1983
Brian Bishop 1984–2014
Hermann Philipps 2014–present
Orthography and pronunciation
Schleyer proposed alternate forms for the umlaut vowels, but they were
The alphabet is as follows:
That is, the vowel letters ä, ö, ü have the pronunciations they do
in German. C is pronounced like English j, and j like English sh. /s/
is pronounced [z] after voiced consonants, for example bs, ds, gs, ls,
as it is in English. R and W were not found in the original proposal.
Note: The letters ä, ö, and ü do not have alternative forms such as
the ae, oe, and ue of German, but Schleyer proposed alternate forms
ꞛ, ꞝ, and ꞟ for them, all of which are part of
version 7.0 released in June 2014:
U+A79A Ꞛ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER VOLAPUK AE
U+A79B ꞛ LATIN SMALL LETTER VOLAPUK AE
U+A79C Ꞝ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER VOLAPUK OE
U+A79D ꞝ LATIN SMALL LETTER VOLAPUK OE
U+A79E Ꞟ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER VOLAPUK UE
U+A79F ꞟ LATIN SMALL LETTER VOLAPUK UE
There are no diphthongs; each vowel letter is pronounced separately.
Special consonantal letters
The author Alfred A. Post mentions in his Comprehensive Volapük
Grammar some additional letters created by Schleyer:
And the following letters are constructed by the inventor to designate
sounds which occasionally occur –
The letter r was avoided in Schleyer's original Volapük, on the
principle that it would be difficult for Chinese speakers to
pronounce, and in the adoption of foreign roots r was generally
changed to l. For example, English rose becomes lose. However,
other uncommon phonemes, such as ö /ø/ and ü /y/, were not
Arie de Jong
Arie de Jong added /r/ in his 1929 revision of the
Volapük has minimal l–r pairs such as rel
"religion" versus lel "iron".
Polysyllabic words are always stressed on the final vowel; for
example, neai "never" is pronounced [ne.a.ˈi]. (However, the question
clitic "-li" does not affect the stress of the word it attaches to.)
Where there is secondary stress, as is found in the compounding of
several roots together, it is found on the final syllable between the
Schleyer adapted the vocabulary mostly from English, with a smattering
of German and French. Some words remain readily recognizable for a
speaker of one of the source languages, but many others are modified
beyond easy recognition. For instance, vol and pük are derived
from the English words world and speak. 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) from which they came. Conversely,
Interlingua are commonly criticized as being much easier to learn for
Europeans than for those with non-European native languages.
The grammar is based on that of typical European languages, but with
an agglutinative character: grammatical inflections are indicated by
stringing together separate affixes for each element of meaning.
Nouns inflect for case and number, but not for gender.
The following is the declension of the
Volapük word vol "world":
vola (of the world)
volas (of the worlds)
vole (to the world)
voles (to the worlds)
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": "language of
the world". However, the other case endings (-e dative, -i accusative)
are sometimes used if applicable, or the roots may be agglutinated in
the nominative, with no separating vowel.
Adjectives and adverbs
Adjectives, formed by the suffix -ik, normally follow the noun they
qualify. They do not agree with the noun in number and case in that
position, but do if they precede the noun, are separated from it by
intervening words, or stand alone. Adverbs are formed by suffixing -o,
either to the root or to the adjectival -ik (gudik "good", gudiko
"well"); they normally follow the verb or adjective they modify.
The pronouns begin with o-. In the singular, they are ob "I", ol
"thou", om "he/it", of "she", os (impersonal), on "one", ok
"oneself". They are pluralized with -s: obs "we", oms "they". The
possessive may be formed with either the genitive -a or with
adjectival -ik: oba or obik "my". Prepositions, conjunctions and
interjections are also formed from noun roots by appending appropriate
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).
For the simple present, the pronouns are suffixed to the verb stem:
binob I am, binol thou art,
etc. The present passive takes the prefix pa-:
palöfons they are loved.
Tense, aspect, and voice
The three tenses in the indicative, and the three perfect aspects,
each take a characteristic vowel prefix:
The present-tense prefix is omitted in the active voice, so:
binob I am, äbinol you were, ebinom he has been, ibinof she had been,
obinos it will be, ubinon one will have been.
These are seen as being more distant from the present tense the
further the vowel is from [a] in vowel space, and they can be used
with temporal words to indicate distance in the past or future. For
example, from del 'day',
adelo today, odelo tomorrow, udelo the day after tomorrow, ädelo
yesterday, edelo the day before yesterday, idelo three days ago.
The passive voice is formed with p-, and here the a is required for
the present tense:
palöfob I am loved, pälogol you were seen, pologobs we will be seen.
The infinitive is formed with the suffix -ön. It can be combined with
Logön to see, elogön to have seen.
Yes–no questions are indicated with the particle li:
Pälogom-li was he seen?
The hyphen indicates that the syllable li does not take stress. It
occurs before the verb to avoid a sequence of three consonants or a
double el: li-pälogol? li-binoms?
Participles and the habitual aspect
Participles, both active and passive, are formed in -öl:
Logöl seeing, elogöl having seen, ologöl being about to see,
palogöl seen (being seen), pelogöl seen (having been seen), pologöl
about to be seen.
Binob penöl is literally 'I am writing', though penob is also used.
For "I write" as habitual action, the habitual aspect is used. This is
formed by adding -i- after the tense prefix, and here again the
present-tense a- is required. The forms are thus active ai-, äi-,
ei-, ii-, oi-, ui-, passive pai-, päi-, pei-, pii-, poi-, pui-. All
are pronounced as two syllables.
Aifidob bodi I eat bread (as a daily occurrence), äipenob penedis I
used to write letters.
With temporal words,
aidelo daily (at the present time)
The imperative moods
The imperative -öd follows the person suffix:
Gololöd! Go! (to one person), gololsöd! go! (to more than one
Optative -ös is used for courteous requests, and jussive -öz an
Conditionals are formed with -la for the protasis (if-clause) and -öv
for the apodosis (then-clause):
If äbinob-la liegik, äbinoböv givik – if I were rich I would
Ibinomöv givik, if ibinom-la liegik – he would have been
generous if he had been rich.
Note that the tense changes as well, so that in the first example the
past tense is used even though the present tense is intended. Like the
question particle, the -la is written with a hyphen to indicate that
it is not stressed in speech.
A potential mood is formed with -öx:
Pelomöx he might pay.
Reflexive forms are made from the active voice and the pronoun ok:
Vatükob I wash, vatükobok (or vatükob obi) I wash myself.
In the third person, the periphrastic form of vatükomok (he washes
himself) must use the reflexive pronoun, vatükom oki, as vatükom omi
would mean "he washes him (someone else)".
The plural -s may precede or follow the reflexive, as the speaker
vatükomoks or vatükomsok they wash themselves.
Here there is a meaningful distinction between joining the pronoun to
the verb, and inflecting it independently:
Löfobsok we love ourselves, löfobs obis we love each other.
The gerundive arguments[clarification needed] are active ö-, passive
The Lord's Prayer
1880 Schleyer Volapük
1930 de Jong Volapük
O Fat obas, kel binol in süls,
O Fat obas, kel binol in süls!
paisaludomöz nem ola!
Nem olik pasalüdükonöd!
Kömomöd monargän ola!
Regän ola kömonöd!
Jenomöz vil olik, äs in sül, i su tal!
Vil olik jenonöd, äsä in sül, i su tal!
Bodi obsik vädeliki givolös obes adelo!
Givolös obes adelo bodi aldelik obsik!
E pardolös obes debis obsik,
E pardolös obes döbotis obsik,
äs id obs aipardobs debeles obas.
äsä i obs pardobs utanes, kels edöbons kol obs.
E no obis nindukolös in tendadi;
E no blufodolös obis,
sod aidalivolös obis de bad.
ab livükolös obis de bad!
(Ibä dutons lü ol regän, e nämäd e glor jü ün laidüp.)
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.
Usage as common noun
Volapük or a variation thereof means "nonsense, gibberish"
in certain languages, such as Danish volapyk and Esperanto
Constructed languages portal
Volapük edition of, the free encyclopedia
^ a b "Pük, Memory: Why I Learned a Universal Language No One Speaks"
by Paul LaFarge. The Village Voice, August 2000.
^ Handbook of Volapük,
Charles E. Sprague (1888)
^ A History of the English Language, 5th ed. Albert C. Baugh and
Thomas Cable. Ch. I English Present and Future; Prentice Hall,
Upper Saddle River (2002)
^ The Loom of Language F. Bodmer and L. Hogben (eds.)
Ch. XI Pioneers of Language Planning; Allen & Unwin Ltd,
^ a b Foreword to Konciza Gramatiko de Volapuko, André Cherpillod.
^ "Members du Comité Central" (PDF), Le
Volapük (in French),
Association Français pour la propagation du Volapük: 2–3,
^ a b Pei, Mario (1968). One Language for the World. New York: Biblo
and Tannen. p. 134. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
^ a b Arika Okrent (December 15, 2012). "Trüth, Beaüty and
Volapük". berfrois. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
^ Arie de Jong's Revision of
Volapük (1931) by Ed Robertson
^ Ramón y Cajal, S. (2009): Tonics of Willingness: Rules and Advices
about Scientific Investigation. Formación Alcalá: Alcalá la Real,
^ Collection for Planned Languages (in German)
Volapük Collection - American Philosophical Society
^ "Ciekawe wydarzenia w Internecie". PC World (Polish) (in Polish).
December 1, 2007. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
^ Yves Nevelsteen (2007-09-15). "Volapuko jam superas Esperanton en
Vikipedio". Libera Folio (in Esperanto). Retrieved 2013-04-26.
^ R.L.G. (7 March 2013). "The keenestns". The Economist.
^ "Yahoo! Groups". yahoo.com.
^ "Volapuko havas novan Cifal!", La Balta Ondo, May 29, 2014.
^ Sprague (1888)
^ "A Quick Look at Volapük". Volapük.com. Volapük.com. Retrieved
^ Ager, Simon. "
Volapük alphabet". Omniglot. Kualo. Retrieved
^ "Latin Extended-D Range: A720–A7FF" (PDF). Unicode.org. June 2014.
Retrieved 4 May 2015.
^ Front rounded vowels such as /y/ and /ø/ occur in only 7.10% of the
languages in the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database.
^ "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 sherík –
expensive), bank, bäk (back), deadik". – "What the L!",
AUXLANG list posting by Thomas Alexander, 15 November 2005.
^ Os is used for cases where the pronoun has no obvious antecedent,
such as "I swear it", and perhaps with impersonal verbs. Om is used
for abstract things such as lit "light".
^ Rogers, Stephen D. (2011). A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From
Adunaic to Elvish,
Zaum to Klingon-- the Anwa (Real) Origins of
Invented Lexicons. Avon: Adams Media Corporation. p. 238.
^ "The Hardest Natural Languages" by Arnold L. Rosenberg (1979)
^ Burger, Harald, et al. Phraseologie. ISBN 978-3-11-019076-2.
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Blueprints for Babel: Volapük – A summary of the grammar of
Volapük in Otto Jespersen's pro
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Volapük from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
Philipp Engert und Leonard Schwägerl (Hrsg.): Schleyer und
Volapük—Geschichte und Linguistik. Seminarkurs 2012/2013
Martin-Schleyer-Gymnasium, Lauda-Königshofen. Verlag tredition GmbH
Hamburg 2013; ISBN 978-3-8495-7238-9
The original Volapük
Charles Sprague, 1888, Hand-Book of Volapük
The 1931 revised Volapük
Summary of "Arie de Jong's Revision of
Volapük (1931)" by Ed
Robertson. From the 21st edition of the Journal of Planned Languages,
A ten-lesson course in modern Volapük
Ralph Midgley's web-page
A complete Italian grammar of Schleyer's original Volapük
Handbooks, grammars and dictionaries
Gramat Volapüka - by Arie de Jong –
Wörterbuch der Weltsprache: Vödabuk Volapüka - by Arie de
Volapük dictionary – Compiled by Ralph Midgley
Malgranda gramatiko de Volapuko per
Esperanto by the ex-
Bishop (2015) -
A complete Italian grammar of
Volapük (1888) by V. Amoretti –
A Hand-book of Volapük, by Andrew Drummond – comic historical
novel. ISBN 1-904598-67-6 –
Volapük links and bibliographies
Volapük links page
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Volapükalised – A
Volapük group on Yahoo!, general discussion
Volapük about any topic and about
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Volapük Facebook Group
IRC chat channel in Volapük
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