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Logo of the Volapük movement (2nd phase)
Created by Johann Martin Schleyer
Date founded 1879–1880
Setting and usage International: mostly in Europe
Total speakers 20[1]
Category (purpose) constructed language
Category (sources) vocabulary from English, German and French
Language codes
ISO 639-1 vo
ISO 639-2 vol
ISO 639-3 vol

Volapük (pronounced [volaˈpyk], English: /ˈvɒləpʊk/[2]) 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.[3] In 2000, it was estimated that there were 20–30 Volapük speakers in the world;[1] the Yahoo Group for Volapük has over 200 members.[4] Volapük was largely displaced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, specifically by Esperanto, Ido and Interlingua; all three have fewer distinct vowels, and are easier for English and Spanish speakers to pronounce.[citation needed]


Orthography and pronunciation

Schleyer proposed alternate forms for the umlaut vowels, but they were rarely used.
letter IPA
a [a]
ä [ɛ]
b [b]
c [tʃ] or [dʒ]
d [d]
e [e]
f [f]
letter IPA
g [ɡ]
h [h]
i [i]
j [ʃ] or [ʒ]
k [k]
l [l]
m [m]
letter IPA
n [n]
o [o]
ö [ø]
p [p]
r [r]
s [s] or [z]
t [t]
letter IPA
u [u]
ü [y]
v [v]
x [ks] or [ɡz]
y [j]
z [ts] or [dz]

Note: ä, ö and ü do not have alternative forms such as the ae, oe and ue of German.

There are no diphthongs; each vowel letter is pronounced separately.

Syllabic Stress

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 roots.

Letter 'r'

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 lol. However, other uncommon phonemes, such as ö /ø/ and ü /y/, were not avoided,[5] and Arie de Jong added /r/ in his 1929 revision of the language. Modern Volapük has minimal l-r pairs such as rel "religion" vs lel "iron".


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.[6] 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) 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 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":

Volapük declension Singular Plural
Nominative vol (world) vols (worlds)
Genitive vola (of the world) volas (of the worlds)
Dative vole (to the world) voles (to the worlds)
Accusative voli (world) volis (worlds)

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", of "she", on "it, s/he". They are pluralized with -s: obs "we", ons "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 suffixes.

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). However, for simple present, the pronouns are added to the verb stem: binob "I am", binol "you (sg.) are", etc. The passive takes the prefix pa-: palöfons "they are loved".


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 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.[7]

The Dutch 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.[7]

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 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[8].

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.

Regarding the success of this artificial language, the Spanish scientist 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 Volapük or Esperanto are practically one more language to be learnt. This result was predictable because neither the essentially popularized and democratic tendencies of modern knowledge, nor the echonomic views of authors and editors consent in a different way"[9]

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"

Large Volapük collections are held by the International Esperanto Museum [2] 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. [3]

There are an estimated 20 Volapük speakers in the world today.[1] There has been a continuous Volapük speaker community since Schleyer's time, with an unbroken succession of Cifals (leaders).

The list of past cifals:

  1. Johann Martin Schleyer 1879–1912
  2. Albert Sleumer 1912–1948
  3. Jakob Sprenger 1948–1950
  4. Johann Schmidt 1950–1977
  5. Johann Krüger 1977–1983
  6. Brian Bishop 1984-present


The Lord's Prayer

1880 Schleyer Volapük 1930 de Jong Volapük
O Fat obas, kel binol in süls, paisaludomöz nem ola! O Fat obas, kel binol in süls! 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.)
Jenosöd! 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.

Usage as common noun

The word Volapük is also used to mean "nonsense" and "gibberish" in certain languages, such as Danish[10] in the expression Det er det rene volapyk for mig (It's pure Volapük to me). Also in Esperanto, a rival constructed language, the expression Tio estas volapukaĵo por mi (That is a Volapük-thing for me) is sometimes used like the English "it's Greek to me" (that is, "I can't understand this" or "this is nonsense"). Volapukaĵo is also a slang Esperanto term for "Nonsense". [11]

See also

Volapük edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  1. ^ a b c "Pük, Memory: Why I Learned a Universal Language No One Speaks" by Paul LaFarge. The Village Voice, August 2000.
  2. ^ OED
  3. ^ Handbook of Volapük, Charles E. Sprague (1888)
  4. ^ Volapük Yahoo Group
  5. ^ Front rounded vowels such as /y/ and /ø/ occur in only 7.10% of the languages in the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database.[1]
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ a b Foreword to Konciza Gramatiko de Volapuko, André Cherpillod. Courgenard, 1995.
  8. ^ Arie de Jong's Revision of Volapük (1931) by Ed Robertson
  9. ^ Ramón y Cajal, S. (2009): Tonics of Willingness: Rules and Advices about Scientific Investigation. Formación Alcalá: Alcalá la Real, Jaén.
  10. ^ "The Hardest Natural Languages" by Arnold L. Rosenberg (1979)
  11. ^ Burger, Harald, et al. Phraseologie. ISBN 9783110190762.

External links



The 1931 revised Volapük


Handbooks, grammars and dictionaries

Volapük links and bibliographies



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Volapük Volapük.

Alternative spellings

Proper noun




  1. An artificial language created in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer.


External links



Vola, genitive of vol, world + pük, speak.




  1. Volapük

Derived terms


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Nüdug Volapüke

•A•Ä• B•C•D• E•F•G• H•I•J• K•L•M• N•O•Ö• P•Q•R• S•T•U• Ü•V•W• X•Y•Z•

An Introduction to Volapük

An introduction to the constructed language Volapük, which was quite popular for a period at the end of the 19th century, and is still in use spoken by a small number of people who actively use the language today.



Volapük was originally the creation of a German priest, Johann Martin Schleyer (1831-1912), and was published in 1879. It met with immediate success, with Volapük supporters' clubs being formed throughout Europe and the United States, and even as far away as Brazil and China. In its heyday, about 1889, there were dozens of Volapük periodicals, and hundreds of different books had been published in and on the language.

There is much debate about the cause of Volapük's speedy decline. Some put it down to the clamour for reforms to the language, others point to the author Schleyer's proprietorial attitude to his creation, and still others point to the fact of Esperanto being easier to learn. There was a revival of Volapük in the 1930's, principally in the Netherlands, led by Arie de Jong (1865-1957), who also revised the language slightly into the form which is normally used today.

His revised form of Volapük is the one which is described here, but section III below describes where the classical form of the language differs from the modern one.


Pronunciation and orthography

Volapük uses the Roman alphabet, except for the letters Q and W, which are not used, and with the addition of Ä, Ü and Ö. Rules for capitalisation are much the same as in English. The "names" of the letters are themself plus e for the consonants and just themselves for the vowels, giving a ä be ce de e fe etc.

a - as a in 'father' or 'nap'.
ä - as ea in 'head' or 'bear'.
c - as ch in 'church'.
e - as e in 'cafe'.
g - always as g in 'get'.
h - as h in 'house'.
i - as i in 'ski' or 'fit'.
j - as sh in 'shoe'.
o - as o in 'for' or 'no'.
ö - as u in 'fur' or more properly as eu in French 'fleur'.
u - as oo in 'fool'.
ü - as ue in French 'rue' or ü in German 'Büro'.
z - as ts in 'bats'.

The other letters have their usual values in English. Where a letter only has an unvoiced version, e.g. c, j, s, z, some voicing is permitted.

Stress is always on the last syllable, except when that syllable is the hyphened suffix -li or -la, in which case the stress falls on the syllable preceding.


There is no article for Volapük words. Thus pod can mean apple, an apple or the apple according to the context.

There is an article el which is used with proper nouns which have not been assimilated and other words which for one reason or another are not declinable. This article is declinable in the same way as nouns (see below). For example:

Kanobs logön eli Sputnik me daleskop. We can see the sputnik with a telescope.
El Paris binon cifazif Fransäna. Paris is the capital of France.

Here the -i on the end of el signifies the accusative (direct object) case.

Affixes can also be added on to el, e.g. you can use jiel if you want to indicate that the proper name refers to a female (male: hiel), elep for a plant etc.:

Elaf Felis Catus lödon valöpo. The (animal) Felis catus lives everywhere.


Nouns in Volapük have four main cases. These are the nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases. The nominative case has no ending and is used for the subject of a sentence or with a preposition, e.g.

Vom binof in dom. The woman is in the house.

Here, both vom and dom have no ending as they are in the nominative.

The accusative ending is -i added on the end of the noun. The accusative in Volapük is not shown by word order as in English. Thus:

Man beitom dogi AND Dogi beitom man both mean the man bites the dog.

In some languages, the accusative form of the noun is sometimes used to signify motion after some prepositions. This is not the case in Volapük.

Dog bunon sui tapäd. The dog jumps onto the carpet.
Dog bunon sua tapäd. The dog jumps off the carpet

Here we see that Volapük can form prepositions of motion to and motion from by adding the suffixes -i and -a respectively to prepositions.

The prepositions of motion can also be used with adverbs as in Esperanto, but the accusative ending is added on before the adverb ending in Volapük:

Vom golof domio. The woman is going homewards.

(From home would be domao, and at home would be domo).

The genitive case ending is -a:

Gramat Volapüka. The grammar of Volapük.
Jul hipula. The boy's school.

The dative case ending is -e:

Givob buki tidane. I give the book to the teacher (or I give the teacher the book).

The plural ending is -s which is added on after any case ending:

Flens binons gebovik. Friends are useful.
No labom flenis mödik. He does not have many friends.
Selidöp flenas. The shop of the friends.
Egivom oni flenes okik. He has given it to his friends.

The fifth case is the vocative, which just means you have to use the word o if using a noun as a form of address:

O flens, o Romans, o kelänans! Friends, Romans, countrymen!

There is also a predicative case which is hardly ever used, ending in u.

Ekölom yani rediku. He has painted the door red. - As opposed to:
Ekölom yani redik. He has painted the red door.


Pronouns are one of the few groups of words in Volapük which are mostly a priori, i.e. not borrowed from existing languages even in a mutilated form.

The main pronouns are:

ob - I
ol - you (singular)
om - he
of - she
on - it or he/she
oy - one
os - impersonal (null subject), e.g. reinos - it is raining.
obs - we
ols - you (plural)
oms, ofs, ons - they (masc., fem., common/neuter)

These pronouns are also added on the end of verbs:

Golob. I go.
Golom. He goes.
Man golom. The man goes.

Pronouns are declined just like nouns.

Other pronouns are ok, the reflexive pronoun:

Flapom omi. He hits him (i.e. somebody else).
Flapom oki. He hits himself.

and od the reciprocative pronoun:

Löfons odis. They love each other.

As opposed to:

Löfons okis. They love themselves.

The polite forms of ol and ols are or and ors, but these are hardly ever used except poetically. Part of Arie de Jong's official modern grammar, but never used are og (you or me) and ogs (you and me/you and us).

Some other pronouns are: at (this), et (that), it (itself), ot (the same thing), ut (whoever), kel (who/which: relative, not question), kin (who?), kis (what?), ek (somebody), nek (nobody), bos (something), nos (nothing).


The verb in revised Volapük has 1683 possible conjugations, including many that are extremely rare. It is important to observe that these forms are derived simply and regularly, so there is no great difficulty involved. There are four tenses which are commonly used: the present, which is the form used in most of the examples so far, the future, which involves adding the prefix o-, the imperfect with prefix ä-, and the perfect, which has e-. The suffix used is the pronoun involved, or if a noun is the subject, whichever pronoun would be appropriate for that noun.

Fidol.          You are eating.
Man fidom.      The man is eating.
Vom fidof.      The woman is eating.
Cil fidon.      The child is eating.
Studans fidons. The students are eating.
Ofidol.         You are going to eat.
Äfidol.         You were eating.
Efidol.         You have eaten.

The prefix for the present tense is a-, but this is only used in certain circumstances. One of these is if used with a word other than a verb, because in Volapük, not only verbs can have tenses:

Delo.  By day.
Adelo. Today.
Odelo. Tomorrow.
Ädelo. Yesterday.

The other circumstance is in the passive voice:

Pafidol. You are being eaten.
Pofidol. You are going to be eaten, etc.

which uses the prefix p- before the tense prefix.

There are four other tenses which are much less common: the future perfect (prefix u-), the pluperfect (prefix i-), the future in the past (ö-), and the future in the past perfect (ü-):

Ufidobs. We will have eaten.
Ifidobs. We had eaten.
Üfidobs. We were going to eat.
Öfidobs. We were going to have eaten.

Questions are constructed by adding the particle -li after the verb:

Nolol vegi.     You know the way.
Nolol-li vegi?  Do you know the way?

There are four other moods in Volapük: the conditional which uses the ending öv, the optative (polite imperative) ending in ös, the imperative ending in öd, and the subjunctive which uses the particle -la.

The subjunctive is only used where something ridiculous or unimaginably unlikely is referred to.

Ekömoböv, if ilaboböv moni. I would have come if I had had the money.
Seilolös! Please be quiet.
Seilolöd! Be quiet!
Golobsös! Let's go!
Ogivob-la dolaris lul? Cogol, no-li? Me, give you five dollars? You're joking, aren't you?

Notice how the pronoun is still inserted in the optative and imperative.

The infinitive form of the verb ends in ön. Where the infinitive form actually means in order to, we add the word ad:

Fidobs ad lifön. We eat to live.

Participles end in öl. Participles behave as adjectives (see below).

Ovisitob oli ün vig okömöl. I shall visit you in the coming week.
Ägolölo ve süt, älogob fleni bäldik oba. While (I was) going along the street, I saw an old friend of mine.

Whether a verb is naturally transitive or intransitive varies from one word to the next. Transitive verbs can be made intransitive by inserting the affix ik, and intransitive verbs made transitive by the use of the affix ük:

Seadom su stul.         He is sitting on the chair.
Seadükom cili sui stul. He seats the child on the chair.
Eperom moni okik.       He has lost his money.
Mon omik eperikon.      His money has got lost.

(In the above examples, oka and oma are acceptable alternatives for the possessive adjectives okik and omik respectively).

The affix ik can be used with intransitive verbs, and ük with verbs that are normally transitive. In these cases, they provide a kind of medial voice or causative voice respectively.

Äseadikom sui stul. He sat down on the chair.
Man päperükom moni oki fa briet. The man was caused to lose his money by drunkenness.

Adjectives and adverbs

Adjectives in Volapük end in -ik. The normal position for adjectives is after the noun they qualify and if placed there, and there is no ambiguity, they do not need to agree with their noun in case or number. However, if placed before the noun they qualify, or there is ambiguity, they must agree.

The comparative and superlative of adjectives is formed by adding um or ün respectively after the ik and before any case or number agreement.

The prepositions used with the comparative and superlative degrees are ka and se respectively.

Flens gudik.               Good friends.
Flens gudikum ka ons.      Better friends than they.
Flens gudikün se valikans. Best friends of all.

Adverbs end in o, and can be formed from adjectives or nouns:

Delo.   By day.
Deliko. On a daily basis.

When they modify other adverbs, they always go in front, but when they modify adjectives and verbs, they can go on either side, though there is a convention to put them in front of adjectives.

There are also a number of common adverbs which are roots in themselves and do not end in o: ai (always), ba (perhaps), i (also), is (here), nu (now), plu (more), te (only), ti (almost), us (there), ya (indeed), ye (however), (where: relative), (when: relative), lio (how: question), vio (how: relative).

(The questions where and when are kiöpo? and kiüpo? respectively. These are formed from ki- then the affix of place or time respectively (öp or üp), then the adverb ending.


The numerals are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
bal tel kil fol lul mäl vel jöl zül deg
11 12 13 20 21 22 30
degbal degtel degkil teldeg teldegbal teldegtel kildeg
100 - 101 123 234 1 000
tum, tumbal tumteldegkil teltumkildegfol mil
1 234 2 345 10 000
mil teltumkildegfol telmil kiltumfoldeglul degmil
234 567 1 000 000 4 876 329
teltumkildegfolmil lultumäldegvel balion folbalion jöltumveldegmälmil kiltumteldegzül
balion = million (10^6).
telion = billion (European)/trillion (US) (10^12).
kilion = trillion (European)/quintillion (US) (10^18) etc.

The key words used in forming decimal fractions are:

0,1      = dim
0,01     = zim
0,001    = mim
0,0001   = dimmim
0,00001  = zimmim
0,000001 = balyim

The fractional part should be read as if an integer number, followed by the decimal fraction word to give the order of magnitude. Thus

0,345 = kiltumfoldeglul mim
0,123456 = tumteldegkilmil foltumluldegmäl balyim

For smaller magnitudes telyim (10^-12), kilyim (10^-18) etc. are formed in the same way as their high magnitude counterparts telion, kilion etc.

(You probably noticed most of the numerals are apriori ).

Numerals are placed after their nouns:

Dolars teltumluldeg. $250.

Ordinal numerals are formed by the suffix -id;
Fractional numerals are formed by the suffix -dil;
Repetition or multiplication is expressed by the suffix -na, e.g.:

Binos düp velid soara.            It is 7 o'clock in the evening.
Foldils kil binons veldeglul zim. 3/4 is 0,75.
Ibinos visit folnaik ofa us.      It had been her fourth visit there.
Folna fol binos degmäl.           4 x 4 = 16.

Other parts of speech

The other parts of speech are prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

These can exist as roots in themselves, with no particular ending as in the following examples.

(before: time), dis (under), fo (before: place), ko (together with), ma(according to), nen (without), po (behind), su (on), sus (above), ta (against), (between).
ab (but), bi (because), das (that), dat (so that), do (though), du (while), e (and), klu (therefore), u (or).
ag! (ah!), he! (hey!), o! (oh!), sö! (psst!).

Alternatively, they can be formed from other roots by adding the endings for prepositions, for conjunctions, and for interjections:

Nil.   Proximity.
Nilü.  Near.
Kod.   Cause.
Kodä.  Why. (relative; question is Kikodo?)
Seil.  Silence.
Seilö! Silence!

Word formation, prefixes and suffixes

Formation of compound words takes place in Volapük in a similar way to English, German, Esperanto, Hungarian, Chinese and many other languages.

The main word comes last:

Bödakanit. Birdsong.
Kanitaböd. Songbird.
Pokamon.   Pocket-money.
Monapok.   Money pocket.

In the above examples, the roots are joined by the genitive ending -a. It is also possible to join words using the accusative ending -i and the adverbial ending -o. This allows subtle differentiation of meaning:

Motalöf. Mother love. (Love by a mother).
Motilöf.      "       (Love of, or towards, a mother).
Motolöf.      "       (Love like a mother's).

Numerous prefixes and suffixes also allow Volapük's approximately 3000 root words to be vastly extended. Some of the most important of these are:

be (see example below), fi (to the end), hi (male), ji (female), ke (together), läx (ex-), le (greatness), lu (disparagement or step relationship), (in-law), ne (opposite), ru (ancient).
Givön.    To give.     Begivön.     To present with.

(Makes what was the indirect object the direct object).

Reidön.   To read.     Fireidön.    To read completely.
Jevod.    Horse.       Hijevod.     Stallion.
Jip.      Sheep.       Jijip.       Ewe.
Men.      Human being. Kemen.       Fellow human being.
Presidan. President.   Läxpresidan. Ex-president.
Kan.      Ability.     Lekan.       Art.
Dom.      House.       Ludom.       Hovel.
Fat.      Father.      Lufat.       Stepfather.
Blod.     Brother.     Lüblod.      Brother-in-law.
Laodik.   Loud.        Nelaodik.    Quiet.
Fot.      Forest.      Rufot.       Primeval forest.

Many prepositions are also used as prefixes.

am (verbal noun), ag (abundance), an (person associated), at (amount of), av (science), äb (victim), äd (generalisation of effect), än (country), ät (abstraction), ed (particularisation), ef (group of people), el (maker of), em (group of things), et (consequential or concrete example), iäl (inclination), il (diminutive), im (philosophy), od (softer or less serious example), ot (harder or more serious example), ov (possibility), öf (quality), öm (equipment), öp (place), ül (young of animals, endearment).
Finükön. To complete.     Finükam.  Completion.
Her.     Hair.            Heragik.  Hairy.
Feil.    Agriculture.     Feilan.   Peasant.
Mäl.     Six.             Mälat.    Half-a-dozen.
Stel.    Star.            Stelav.   Astronomy.
Fan.     Imprisonment.    Fanäb.    Prisoner.
Spik.    Power of speech. Spikäd.   Lecture.
Deutän.  Germany.
Men.     Human being.     Menät.    Humanity.
Pen.     Writing.         Pened.    Letter (correspondence).
Reidan.  Reader.          Reidanef. Readership.
Bod.     Bread.           Bodel.    Baker.
Buk.     Book.            Bukem.    Library.
Jonön.   To show.         Jonet.    (TV) screen.
Ok.      One's self.      Okiäl.    Selfishness.
Dom.     House.           Domil.    Cottage.
Sogäd.   Society.         Sogädim.  Socialism.
Mag.     Image.           Magod.    Illustration.
Mag.     Image.           Magot.    Statue.
Pron.    Pronunciation.   Pronovik. Pronounceable.
Flen.    Friend.          Flenöfik. Friendly.
Nün.     Information.     Nünöm.    Computer.
Vob.     Work.            Voböp.    Workplace.
Kat.     Cat.             Katül.    Kitten. 

This lists only a proportion of the affixes available.

Differences with classical Volapük

In 1887 there were also a number of reforms to the original Volapük. These are also outlined here, but the majority of changes refer to those agreed in 1930 and proposed by Arie de Jong.

Pronunciation and orthography

Exactly the same as modern Volapük except that the apostrophe (') was used instead of h before 1887.

The letter r was much less commonly used in classical Volapük, and a number of new words have been introduced using it. Some of these replace old words which appeared too mutilated as a result of not using an r.

Many other words, especially the most common ones, still retain their original l. Some words crept in classical Volapük where the root began with a vowel. This was standardised to begin with l. A very small proportion of words have changed for no other reason than the passage of time or to remove ambiguities. Here are some examples of the changes in vocabulary:

 OLD        NEW
Gletik.  Gretik.   (large).
Flentän. Fransän.  (France).
Jeval.   Jevod.    (horse).
Ägüptän. Lägüptän. (Egypt).
Nelij.   Linglän.  (England).
Lilöm.   Rein.     (rain)
Lilädön. Reidön.   (to read)
Lemön.   Remön.    (to buy)

Changes to the vocabulary as a result of changes to the affix system and to attitudes to word formation are dealt with later.


The use of el and its derivatives occurs only in modern Volapük.


The predicative case and the modified prepositions to show motion are used only in modern Volapük.


The pronouns oy, or, ors and od do not occur in classical Volapük.

Previously on was used instead of oy, and om was used instead of on for all common or neuter items as well as masculine ones.

Before 1887, the reflexive pronoun was added to the end of the verb, e.g. modern lavons okis (they wash themselves) was lavomsok or lavomoks.


The future in the past and future in the past perfect tenses do not appear in classical Volapük.

Classical Volapük also had an aorist aspect, which was formed by placing an -i- between the tense marker and the verb root, e.g.

Olödob in zif. I shall live in the town.
Oilödob in zif. I shall always live in the town.

Classical Volapük also had a third imperative mood, called the jussive, which was stronger than the other two and ended in -öz.

Seilolös! Please be quiet.
Seilolöd! Be quiet!
Seilolöz! Why don't you shut up?!

The subjunctive mood was formerly used more often than it is now.

Adjectives and Adverbs

No change.


The numbers ten, twenty, thirty> etc, which are deg, teldeg, kildeg etc. in modern Volapük were previously formed by adding an s to the numbers for one, two, three, etc.: bals, tels, kils. The units were added on to the tens by the word e (and), e.g. balsebal (11), balsetel (12) etc.

The decimal fractional numerals are also modern.

Other parts of speech

No major change except that modern ad is al in classical Volapük.

Word formation

Modern Volapük uses affixes to form words less than was previously the case. This is largely because of the greater number of roots available.

The modern Volapük affix system is much more systematic and regular than the classical one. A number of the modern affixes did not appear in the classical form of the language.

Some classical affixes have been abolished. Previously gle- existed in addition to le- as an augmentative prefix, and sma- in addition to -il as a diminutive affix.

The old suffixes -lik and -nik are the equivalent of the modern -öfik and -agik respectively. Previously the affix -el covered the meanings of both -el and -an.

As you can see below, one problem where the word lemel previously existed as an isomer (it could be analysed in two different ways: le-mel and lem-el) has been removed.

Also, Arie de Jong introduced some new words to address the problem of sexism in the affix system. And even classical Volapük never said ji-fat and ji-man for mother and woman.

OLD                      NEW
Ludog.    (dreadful dog) Lup.      (wolf)
Snekafit. (snake fish)   Pil.      (eel)
Lemel.    (big sea)      Sean.     (ocean)
Lemel.    (buy-er)       Reman.    (buy-er)
Flenlik.  (friendly)     Flenöfik. (friendly)
Lutnik.   (airy)         Lutagik.  (airy)
Lezif.    (big town)     Cifazif.  (chief town, i.e. capital)
Glezif.   (big town)     Lezif.    (big town, i.e. city)
Jiblod.   (she brother)  Sör.      (sister)
Jison.    (she son)      Daut.     (daughter)

Specimen Volapük text

Nim Pebuüköl Söla K

Ven Söl K. päsäkom, nimi kinik gönom-li mödiküno se ons valik, enemom leefadi, ed ekleilükom atosi so:

Leefad balon käfi me näm. Ye atos no binon käf zesüda, kelos saidikon ad skeapön se dinäd, ud ad kädedön fidi nen paküpön, ab käf lü kel näm gebidön ad dunots gretik. Kö nim at ebinon, dugon veg veitik. To at, binon benovimik, suemon cogi. Binon flen gudik, asä binon neflen gudik. Vero gretik e vetik, binon i vemo vifik. Probod ona blinon kope levemik ona igo fidotis smalikün, äsi nötis. Lils ona binons mufoviks; lilon te utosi, kelos lönedon one. Vedon i vo bäldik. Binon i sogädik, e no te leefades votik. Valöpo ä palöfon ä padredon. Kodü sot cogiäla, mögoy igo stümön oni. Labon skini bigik, ini kel neifs breikons okis; ab ladälastad ona binon molädik. Kanon vedön lügik. Kanon vedön zunik. Löfilon ad danüdön. Deadon in bimilem. Löfon cilis e nimülis votik. Binon gedik, e paküpon te sekü gretot ona. No binon pafidäbik. Kanon vobön gudiko. Löfilon ad drinön e vedon läbik. Dunon bosi pro lekan: Blünon viori ....

(Translation of Herrn Ks Lieblingstier by Bertolt Brecht).


NIM    P-E-BU-ÜK-ÖL                    SÖL-A       K.
Animal pass.-perf.-before-trans.-part. mister-gen. K.
Animal preferred/favourite             of mister   K.
Ven  Söl K. p-ä-säk-om,       nim-i       kin-ik    gön-om-li 
When Mr. K. pass.-imp.-ask-he animal-acc. what-adj. favour-he-qu.
When Mr. K. was asked         animal      which     he preferred
möd-ik-ün-o            se     on-s  val-ik,  e-nem-om 
much-adj.-superl.-adv. out of they  all-adj. perf.-name-he
most                   of           all      he named
leefad-i,     ed  e-kleil-ük-om         at-os-i         so:
elephant-acc. and perf.-clear-trans.-he this-neut.-acc. thus
the elephant  and explained             this            thus:
Leefad       bal-on     käf-i        me   näm.   Ye      
Elephant     one-he/she cunning-acc. with force. However
The elephant unites     cunning      with force. However
at-os      no  bin-on    käf         zesüd-a,       kel-os 
this-neut. not be-he/she cunning     necessity-gen. which-neut.
this       not is        the cunning of necessity   which
said-ik-on         ad  skeap-ön    se     din-äd,       ud ad  
enough-adj.-he/she to  escape-inf. out of thing-der.    or to
suffices           for escaping    from   a predicament or to
käd-ed-ön      fid-i    nen     p-a-küp-ön,             ab   
cash-der.-inf. eat-acc. without pass.-pres.-notice-inf. but
collect        food     without being noticed,          but
käf      lü           kel   näm   geb-id-ön     ad dun-ot-s  
cunning  according to which force use-inv.-inf. to thing-der.-plur.
cunning  according to which force is used       for deeds
gret-ik.       Kö    nim    at   e-bin-on,       dug-on      
greatness-adj. Where animal this perf.-be-he/she lead-he/she 
great.         Where animal this has been,       leads
veg    veit-ik.   To      at,   bin-on     
way    width-adj. Despite this, be-he/she 
a path wide.      Despite this, he/she is 
ben-o-vim-ik,                suem-on              cog-i.   
blessing-adv.-attitude-adj., understanding-he/she joke-acc.
good natured,                he/she understands   a joke.
Bin-on    flen     gud-ik,       as-ä       bin-on    ne-flen  
Be-he/she friend   goodness-adj. as-and     be-he/she opp.-friend
He/she is a friend good          as well as           an enemy
gud-ik.       Ver-o      gret-ik        e   vet-ik,     bin-on   
goodness-adj. Truth-adv. greatness-adj. and weight-adj. be-he/she
good.         Truly      large          and heavy,      he/she is
i  vemo    vif-ik.     Probod on-a        blin-on  
also  very    speed-adj.  Trunk  he/she-gen. bring-he/she
also  very    quick.      Trunk  his/her     he/she brings
kop-e     le-vem-ik         on-a        igo  fid-ot-i-s         
body-dat. aug.-expanse-adj. he/she-gen. even eat-der.-acc.-plur.
to body   enormous          his/her     even the foodstuffs
smal-ik-ün,             äs-i    nöt-i-s.       Lil-s      
smallness-adj.-superl., as also nut-acc.-plur. Ear-plur. 
smallest                such as nuts.          Ears
on-a        bin-on-s  muf-ov-ik-s;              lil-on       te   
he/she-gen. be-he/she movement-der.-adj.-plur.; ear-he/she   only
his/her     are       adjustable;               he/she hears only
ut-os-i,               kel-os      lön-ed-on       on-e.  
that which-neut.-acc., which-neut. own-der.-he/she he/she-dat.
what                               suits           him/her.
Ved-on          i    vo   bäld-ik. Bin-on    i    sogäd-ik,  
Becoming-he/she also very age-adj. Be-he/she also society-adj.
He/she gets     also very old.     He/she is also sociable,
e   no  te   leefad-e-s          vot-ik.        Val-öp-o     
and not only elephant-dat.-plur. otherness-adj. All-place-adv.
and not only to elephants        other.         Everywhere
ä        p-a-löf-on              ä        p-a-dred-on.  
and also pass.-pres.-love-he/she and also pass.-pres.-fear-he/she.
both     he/she is loved         and      he/she is feared.
Kod-ü       sot    cog-iäl-a,     mög-oy  igo  stüm-ön    
Cause-prep. kind   joke-inc.-gen. may-one even respect-inf.
Because of  a kind of jovialness  one may even respect
on-i.       Lab-on            skin-i    big-ik,        in-i  
he/she-acc. Possession-he/she skin-acc. thickness-adj. in-acc.
him/her.    He/she has        a skin    thick          into
kel   neif-s      breik-on-s         ok-i-s;          ab   
which knife-plur. break-he/she-plur. self-acc.-plur.; but
which knives      break;                              but 
lad-äl-a-stad         on-a        bin-on    mol-äd-ik.  
heart-der.-gen.-state he/she-gen. be-he/she softness-der.-adj.
disposition           his/her     is        gentle.
Kan-on         ved-ön          lüg-ik.      Kan-on        
ability-he/she becoming-he/she sadness-adj. Ability-he/she
He/she can     get             sad.         He/she can
ved-ön        zun-ik.    Löf-il-on        ad danüd-ön.   
becoming-inf. anger-adj. Love-dim.-he/she to dance-inf. 
get           angry.     He/she likes     to dance. 
Dead-on      in bim-il-em.      Löf-on       cil-i-s          e
Death-he/she in tree-dim.-coll. Love-he/she  child-acc.-plur. and
He/she dies  in the thicket.    He/she loves children         and
nim-ül-i-s             vot-ik.        Bin-on    ged-ik,        e  
animal-dim.-acc.-plur. otherness-adj. Be-he/she greyness-adj., and
young animals          other.         He/she is grey,          and
p-a-küp-on                  te   sek-ü           gret-ot       
pass.-pres.-noticing-he/she only following-prep. greatness-der.
he/she is noticed           only because of      size
on-a.       No  bin-on    p-a-fid-äb-ik.               Kan-on  
he/she-acc. Not be-he/she pass.-pres.-eating-der.-adj. Ability-he/she
his/her.    Not he/she is edible.                      He/she can
vob-ön    gud-ik-o.          Löf-il-on        ad drin-ön       e
work-inf. goodness-adj.-adv. Love-dim.-he/she to drinking-inf. and
work      well.              He/she likes     to drink         and
ved-on          läb-ik.        Dun-on        bos-i          pro 
becoming-he/she happiness-adj. Action-he/she something-acc. for
he/she becomes  happy.         He/she does   something      for
le-kan:       Blün-on         vior-i ....    
aug.-ability: Supply-he/she   ivory-acc.
art:          He/she supplies ivory ....


acc.: accusative; adj.: adjective; adv.: adverb; 
aug.: augmentative; coll.: collective; dat.: dative; der.: derivative; 
dim.: diminutive; gen.: genitive; imp.: imperfect; inc.: inclination; 
inf.: infinitive; inv.: inversion; neut.: neuter; opp.: opposite; 
part.: participle; pass.: passive; perf.: perfect; plur.: plural; 
prep.: preposition; qu.: question; superl.: superlative; 
trans.: transitive.

Further information

You can get in touch by post with either of the following:

Flenef Bevünetik Volapüka
(The International Friends of Volapük)
c/o Ralph Midgley
24 Staniwell Rise
South Humberside
DN17 1TF

Mr. Midgley will provide you with a Volapük course and dictionary for a small amount of money.


Zänabür Volapüka
(The Volapük Centre)
c/o Brian R. Bishop
155 Leighton Avenue

Ed. Robertson, February 1994.
[User:ILVI|Wiki-edited by Jay Bowks 2/2003]

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