from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Project author Johann Martin Schleyer
Year of publication 1880
particularities First widespread and practically used planned language.
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Memorial inscription in Litzelstetten

Volapük (vol. World language ) is a mixed a posteriori - planned language , which was created and introduced by the pastor Johann Martin Schleyer in 1879 and 1880 respectively .



After Solresol in 1817 and 1856, respectively, Volapük was the second planned language to be widely used. Like Solresol, its aspects form a research subject in interlinguistics .


Schleyer's idea for the Volapük is explained once by a dream, another time by an incorrect English-language address that prevented a letter from arriving. Schleyer initially tried to construct a mixed language from six European languages ​​- German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian. He wanted to give this the name "Völkerdelmetsch". But because a common understanding among the different peoples presupposes a common spelling, Schleyer first tried to set up a "world alphabet" (January 18, 1878).


Memorial plaque on Schleyer's former home in Konstanz, Schottenstrasse 37 in the Paradies district

The first attempts to present Volapük to the public can be found in Schleyer's “Sionsharfe”, a monthly newspaper for Catholic poetry. First (March 1879) Schleyer gave samples of his world alphabet in it. In May of the same year the “Draft of a world language and world grammar for the educated of all peoples on earth” appeared as a supplement . This draft brought the principles and the first words. The first test sentence was:

Ko God beginobsöd dinis valik!

At first the language was quite successful. Volapük societies formed in Europe, which spread to North and South America and even some parts of Asia. After just a few years, Volapük supposedly had over 100,000 followers - but whether they really mastered the language is uncertain. According to Kniele, p. 69, there were at least 885 qualified Volapük teachers at the end of 1888.

The stenographer Karl Lenze from Eisleben became Schleyer's first student and received his first diploma as a world language teacher.

Menad (e) bal - Pük (i) bal!
Advert for Learning Volapük from 1889

The first grammar with a dictionary appeared in 1880. The new language was now called "Volapük", formed from the English words world and speak . So Volapük means language of the world or world language . In the February issue of the “Sionsharp”, which initially served as an organ for Volapük, the first verse was the motto “One humanity - one language” :

Menade bal
Püki bal!

One year after the invention of Volapük, the grammar appeared under the title Volapük, the world language, draft of a universal language for all educated people around the world. Author: JM Schleyer, editor of the "Sionsharfe" . This grammar appeared in Sigmaringen and also contained a dictionary with 2780 words. Influential newspapers published recommending articles. The " Luxembourg word " compared the meaning of the so-called " world language " for all of humanity with the meaning of the universal mail and closes with the following admonition:

May the entire civilized human world regard it as one of their most important, sensible and magnificent tasks, indeed as one of their most beautiful things of honor, to adopt Schleyer's world language without delay, to spread it and to introduce it!

Volapükabled ("Weltspracheblatt")

Schleyer soon decided to publish his own world language magazine. From January 1, 1881, the "Weltspracheblatt Volapükabled" appeared . The first number contained grammar, a letter, a number of companies, trades, institutions that were recommended, then comparative sentences in 20 different languages ​​with text in Volapük next to it.

Otto Büchler from Öhringen gave a lecture at a humanistic teachers' meeting in Heilbronn , which is considered to be the first lecture on Volapük, and concluded with the expression of joy that it was a German who gave the impetus for a world language.

"The art of learning Volapük quickly"

In 1882, Kamerer J. Hyberg began to learn Volapük in Ankarsrum , Sweden , and founded an association under the name: Första svenska verldsspråkkluben "Volapükaflens svedik " with nine members, which made no further progress, although he tried hard to get Volapük in To introduce Sweden.

The first world language association was founded in the same year by Rupert Kniele in the village of Alberweiler near Biberach. The year 1884 can be considered the year of the meetings. Schleyer was very ill at this time and was looking for a volapük word for "envy" that did not exist at the time. He said to Rupert Kniele who was visiting him:

Oh, I don't want to know anything about that, God willing, we didn't need a word like that; i don't make the same, do it.

Kniele then created the word "glöt".

From August 25 to 28, 1884, the first general assembly took place in the Kursaal of the Lake Constance city of Friedrichshafen . The word "Volapük" was declared neuter by this assembly, while up to now one has said "the Volapük". In March 1885, Schleyer turned against the so-called "improvers", whom he regarded as the source of all differences.

In early 1887 the "Düsseldorfer Anzeiger" wrote:

If Schleyer wanted to put a stop to the Volapük movement even now, it would be unsuccessful. Because hundreds of thousands have absorbed the thought and stand up for it as if for their own cause.

Scientific authorities such as the linguist Friedrich Max Müller and the geographer Alfred Kirchhoff now spoke out in favor of Volapük. The French newspaper "Le Temps" wrote on January 16, 1887:

Si jamais une langue universelle a quelque chance de s'imposer au monde commercial, c'est assurément celle-là “(volapük).

(German: If ever a universal language had a chance to assert itself in the business world, then this is it.)

The "Kölnische Volkszeitung" even wrote on February 11, 1887:

We learn that in leading positions in Germany the world-language movement is followed with seriousness and participation.

In May 1887 the "Association française" held international exams in which over 300 people from all over the world took part. The director of the business school in Bucharest received his first diploma as “plofed” (professor of world language). From August 6th to 9th, the 2nd Congress of All World Language Friends took place in Munich.

At the beginning of 1888, Schleyer felt compelled to affirm his rights as an inventor. Schleyer carried the name "cifal", as which he was also recognized by the 2nd General Assembly in Munich. His residence was the central point for all Volapükists on earth. The uniform management was done by Schleyer's monthly publication, the "Volapükabled zenodik" ("Zentralblatt der Weltsprache"). The inventor's residence in Constance was considered the " central office of Schleyer's world language ".

The “cifal” was supported by the senators (senatans) . Schleyer chose these senators at his own discretion. In total, he wanted to select 100 senators.

In the same year 1888, Volapük was also introduced in China and Japan . At the end of the first decade (1888) there were 885 world language teachers, 190 senior teachers (löpitidel) and 50 professors (plofed) . Worldwide, the number of Volapük followers was estimated at 1 to 2 million. Courses were given at 272 locations and there were 253 associations that were committed to Volapük (according to Kniele, p. 69).

The British philologist Alexander Ellis mentions in his writings a Chicago girl named Corinne Cohn who grew up with Volapük. She was the daughter of Volapük activist Henry Cohn and was six years old in 1888. But there are no further reports from him.


Over time, Volapük turned out to be too difficult to learn to be able to assert itself permanently. The vocabulary was taken from different European languages, but some of the individual words were changed so much that they could hardly be recognized.

Another burden for the creation of a living Volapük was that Schleyer tried to keep control of his language and to dominate the Volapük Academy autocratically. For example, as Datuval (= "Great Inventor") , he reserved the right to introduce new vocabulary and an absolute right of veto.

After the Volapük Academy, founded in 1889 at the 3rd Volapük Congress in Paris, demanded some reforms, which Schleyer rejected, the rapid decline of the Volapük began. Attempts at reform such as the idiom neutral found no support.

As early as the mid-1880s, more and more Volapük supporters left the world language movement. In 1888 the Nuremberg Volapük Association converted to Esperanto . Volapük quickly lost its importance.

Aria de Jong

In the period after the First World War, the Dutchman Arie de Jong began a complete review of vocabulary and grammar. In 1929 he met with members of the still existing Volapük Academy and the Volapük President, the so-called Cifal . After this revised version was accepted, he published a new key grammar and a model dictionary Volapük-German and German-Volapük in the early 1930s.


At the moment there are only a few people who can master Volapük. The importance of the Volapük lies in the fact that for the first time a new language did not remain a mere project, but was used by a language community .

Volapük has the ISO-639 abbreviations vo and vol .


  • 1879 Johann Martin Schleyer's concept of a world auxiliary language
  • 1880 Publication of the first Volapük textbook in Sigmaringen
  • 1884 First world congress in Friedrichshafen
  • 1887 Second World Congress in Munich - founding of the Volapük Academy
  • 1888 Complete conversion of the Nuremberg Volapük group to Esperanto
  • 1889 Third World Congress in Paris
  • 1889 President of the Volapük Academy Auguste Kerckhoff , dispute with Schleyer
  • 1902 Publication of the completely different language project Idiom Neutral by the former Volapük Academy under Rosenberger
  • 1931 Publication of the revised Volapük by Arie de Jong after approval by the Academy and Cifal


" Cifal " (chief) was the title Schleyer had given himself as head of the Volapük movement. The title “Cifal” has been continued in uninterrupted order from Schleyer to the present day. His successors to this day were or are:

  1. Johann Martin Schleyer 1879–1912
  2. Albert Sleumer 1912-1948
  3. Arie de Jong (acting) 1947–1948, 1951–1957
  4. Jakob Sprenger 1948–1950
  5. Johann Schmidt 1950–1977
  6. Johann Krüger 1977–1983
  7. Brian Reynold Bishop 1984-2014
  8. Hermann Philipps 2014 until today

Due to the small number of speakers, Brian Bishop initially had difficulties in finding a successor. In 2012, the German Hermann Philipps from Bonn was designated as the next Cifal.


The Swede Paul Nylén described his impression of the Volapük retrospectively as follows, after joining another planned language project:

“It was in 1891, I think. I was a high school student in Norrköping. Volapük was in its prime; I also learned it, corresponded with some strangers in it, and tried to warm myself to enthusiasm for the rudeness that Abbot Schleyer had presented - an enthusiasm whose natural goal was the idea of ​​an international auxiliary language itself, but whose concrete object was not suitable was to nourish this enthusiasm in the long term "

In his book Wede: The Language of Central Powers and Their Friends (1915), Adalbert Baumann, the author of World German , sharply criticized the existing language projects, including Volapük:

“His [Schleyer's] dictionary, which has been reduced to 20,000 words, lacks any feeling for the sound of words and, due to the strangeness of the words, presents great difficulties in acquiring the required vocabulary, which is increased by the extreme preference for monosyllabic words that only distinguish by one letter and occur in thousands such as 'bim, bin, bol, bil, bod, böd, bud' etc. These words lack a characteristic feature, as is the case with the formation of tenses. And the greater their number, the easier it is to confuse them. […] In addition, Volapük is equipped with extremely superfluous tenses (subjunctive, aorist). The redesign of the used word roots goes too far. Another significant deficiency was the abundant frequency of umlauts ä ö ü, which can only be found in French, otherwise they are nowhere to be found in the Romance languages. There is mood and arbitrariness everywhere, there is no linguistic and natural basis or any scientific justification; Schleyer was a 'linguist', as he was aptly called. "

Volapük alphabet

The Volapük alphabet consists of 27 letters:

Letter IPA
a [⁠ a ⁠]
Ä [⁠ ɛ ⁠] or [⁠ æ ⁠]
b [⁠ b ⁠]
c [⁠ ⁠] or [⁠ ⁠]
d [⁠ d ⁠]
e [⁠ e ⁠]
f [⁠ f ⁠]
Letter IPA
G [⁠ g ⁠]
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 [⁠ for ⁠]
t [⁠ t ⁠]
Letter IPA
u [⁠ u ⁠]
ü [⁠ y ⁠]
v [⁠ v ⁠]
x [ks] or [gz]
y [⁠ j ⁠]
z [⁠ ts ⁠] or [⁠ dz ⁠]
Schleyer's design for the umlauts

By excluding "q" and "w", the Volapük alphabet only contains 24 of the 26 non-umlauts of the German alphabet plus the 3 umlauts , a total of 27.

Most of the letters are pronounced as in German. There are only deviations for:

  • c = voiceless ch [tʃ] (or voiced dsch [dʒ]): cil [tʃil] = child (from the English "child" [tʃaɪld])
  • j = voiceless sch [ʃ] (or voiced sch [ʒ]): jad [ʃad] = shadow (from the English "shadow" [ˈʃædəʊ])
  • v = w [v]: vin [vin] = wine (from the English "wine" [waɪn]; [v] <[w])
  • y = j [j]: yag [jag] = hunting


Volapük is an agglutinating language, which means that words are given different meanings by adding prefixes and suffixes:

pük = language
pük ön = to speak (-ön is the infinitive ending)
pük el = speaker
ne pük = silence (ne- is the negative prefix)
Example sentences
Odelo ovisitobs flenis obas. (Tomorrow we will visit our friends.)
Lif ela Schleyer abinon vemo nitedik. (Schleyer's life was very interesting.)
Givob ole bukis tel. (I'll give you two books.)

The “Our Father” in Volapük

Volapük hymn


Beginning of the Gospel of John

  1. Primo vöd ädabinon, e vöd äbinon in God, e vöd äbinon God.
  2. Si! vöd äbinon primao in God;
  3. val edavedon dub on, e nen on nos edavedon uta, kel edavedon.
  4. In on lif äbinon, e lif äbinon lit menas.
  5. Lit stralon ini dag, e dag no elasumon oni.


In the twelfth volume of Pierer's Konversations-Lexikon from 1883, a brief introduction to the grammar of this planned language is given under the heading "Volapük":

v. Invented by the pastor Joh. Martin Schleyer in Constance. After the v. Leibniz, among other things, attempts to establish a world language (sd) were unsuccessful, Schleyer tried to achieve the same goal by using English. He declared that he wanted to simplify the English spoken today as much as possible; accordingly he makes world (the world) vol u. from speech (the language) pük, composed of volapük, world language. Similarly, he simplified the grammar in inflection theory: only one declension, only one conjugation should be present in the universal language. The genitive should be formed by the suffix a (hence vol-a-pük), the dative by the suffix e, the accusative by –i; In the plural, the suffix –s is added. Accordingly, father is called. father, in V. fat, Gen. fata, Gen. Plur. The fathers fatas, the fathers fates. The adjective paternal, Engl. fatherly, is formed by adding the syllable –ik: fatik. The personal pronouns are in the singular ob (I), ol (you), om (he), so in the plural: obs, ols, oms. The conjugation of the verb consists of adding these pronouns, the preceding ä forms the simple past, o the future tense, the preceding p the passive, for example pälöfol, du were loved.


declination Singular Plural
Nominative vol (the world) vols (the worlds)
Genitive vola (the world) volas (of the worlds)
dative vole (the world) voles (the worlds)
accusative voli (the world) volis (the worlds)

Word formation

In the case of compound words (compound words), the basic word is at the end:

pokamon = pocket money
monapok = money pocket


Adjectives ( adjectives ) always end with ik :

noun IPA meaning adjective IPA meaning origin
gret [gret] size gretik [greˈtik] big English "great" [gɹeɪt]
smal [smal] Smallness smalik [smaˈlik] small English "small" [smɔːl]
pöf [pøf] poverty pöfik [pøˈfik] poor French "pauvre" [povʀ], "ö" <"[o]" and "f" <"v"
gud [gud] quality gudik [guˈdik] Well English "good"
bath [bath] the evil badik [baˈdik] angry English "bad" [bæd]


Nouns always start and end with a consonant .

noun IPA meaning origin
cem [tʃem] room English "chamber" [ˈtʃeɪmbə]
yad [jad] court English "yard" [jɑːd]
völ [vøl] wall English "wall" [wɔːl], [v] <[w]
bottom [bød] bird English "bird" [bɜːd]
log [log] eye Latin "oculus" ("log" = "l" + "og" ("og" o [ g ] <"oc" o [ k ]) < oc -u l us)
lil [lil] ear English "ear" [ ɪə ], "an ear is" [ən ɪəɹ ɪz] - "lil" = "l" + "il" ("il" <"ir")

The verbs logön [loˈgøn] (= see) and lilön [liˈløn] (= hear) are derived from the nouns eye and ear .

Female nouns derived from male nouns are identified by the prefix ji, for example tidel = teacher, jitidel = teacher. The sex of males is indicated with the prefix om, that of females with the prefix ji, for example omdog = male, jidog = female.

Basic numbers

The basic numbers start and end on a consonant with a vowel. The final consonant is always an " l ". Note the order of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u, ä, ö, ü); only at “7” is an “ e ” inserted again. In Schleyer's Volapük the tens were formed with the plural s: 10 bals, 20 tels, 30 kils etc. 11 balsebal, 12 balsetel, 13 balsekil etc. It was not until the great Volapük reform by Arie de Jong that the word "deg" was introduced a separate word for ten and to form the series of ten was introduced.

Volapük Digit German example
bal 1 one degbal = 11
tel 2 two teldegtel = 22
kil 3 three tumteldegkil = 123
fol 4th four teldegfol = 24
lul 5 five telmil kiltumfoldeglul = 2,345
times 6th six tummäl = 106
vel 7th seven veldeg = 70
jöl 8th eight jölmil = 8,000
zu 9 nine zülbalion = 9,000,000
10 ten teldeg = 20
More numbers
tum = 100
mil = 1,000
degmil = 10,000
milion / balion = 1,000,000 (million)
miliád / telion = 1,000,000,000 (billion)
bilion = bilion, kilion = trillion, folion = quadrillion

folbalion jöltumveldegmälmil kiltumteldegzül = 4,876,329

“Five big trees” means “bims gretik lul” in Volapük.

Verb forms

The passive forms of the verbs are formed by adding the consonant " p " and a vowel. Shown here using the verb " löf " (= to love , derived from the English word "love" ):

Passive forms
Basic form Tense shape translation
pa Present pa löfob i am loved
Past tense löfob i was loved
pe Perfect pe löfob i have been loved
pi past continuous pi löfob I was loved
po Future tense I. po löfob i will be loved
pu Future tense II pu löfob I will have been loved


The meaningful differences are often very small, so that many words are difficult to tell apart.

R and L
The sounds ö ( [⁠ ø ⁠] ) and u ( [⁠ y ⁠] ) are difficult to pronounce for a large part of the people, although the project author Johann Martin Schleyer, the "rolled" tongue tips-R ( [⁠ r ⁠] ) eliminated from its planned language, to facilitate access to the Chinese Yiddish.

What remained of Volapük was reformed in the 1920s by the Dutch Arie de Jong, who reintroduced the letter R. He justified this step by stating that the Japanese had difficulties with the L.

internationalisms are missing or so distorted that they can no longer be recognized. Although a large part of the vocabulary is taken from English, many words (for example “pük”) are difficult to pronounce for native speakers of English due to the umlauts they contain.

The native speaker of English will also not come across the fact that, for example, the word “flen” for friend is derived from the English word “friend”.

Transferred use of the term

In Danish , the word volapyk is now used synonymously for (intentionally) incomprehensible ( technical Chinese , elitist gibberish ) - or in the sense of ' nonsense ': Det er det rene volapyk ( literally : 'This is the purest Volapük') means as much as ' I only understand train station '. Erich Kästner used it similarly in his sarcastic poem So-called Class Women .

In Esperanto , volapukaĵo ("written in Volapük") is also used to mean "incomprehensible".

In Kurt Tucholsky's satire Der Löw 'ist los (1929), Russian is referred to as the Volapük of animals. No further details are given of what exactly is meant by this.

Named Wolapjuk ( Russian кодировка "волапюк" kodirowka "wolapjuk" = encoding "Yiddish" '; english "Volapuk" encoding ) today is called the Slavic-speaking world and the (unofficial) transliteration Cyrillic letters on computer systems with Western Latin alphabet , such as in chat or instant messaging , for example in the following form: СОВЕТСКИЙ СОЮЗ ( Cyrillic ) = COBETCKIJ COJY3 (Latin) In this meaning, Volapük also plays a role in William Gibson's "source code".


  • Philipp Engert and Leonard Schwägerl (eds.): Schleyer and Volapük - history and linguistics. Seminar course 2012/2013 Martin-Schleyer-Gymnasium, Lauda-Königshofen. Tredition GmbH Hamburg 2013; ISBN 978-3-8495-7238-9
  • Hans-Dieter Kuhn: The planned languages ​​Volapük and Esperanto in Constance. History and local events ; Hartung-Gorre Verlag Konstanz 2010; ISBN 978-3-86628-357-2
  • Jürgen Oellers: Language confusion in Friedrichshafen. The first Volapük Congress in 1884. In: Leben am See. Yearbook, year unknown, pp. 26–37.

Web links

Commons : Volapük  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Volapük  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Volapük  - Sources and full texts (oldwikisource)
Wikisource: German texts about Volapük  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i Rupert Kniele: The first decade of the world language Volapük. Überlingen 1889.
  2. ^ Jürgen Oellers: Confusion of languages ​​in Friedrichshafen. The first Volapük Congress in 1884. In: Leben am See. Yearbook, year unknown, p. 26.
  3. volapük.com
  4. volapük.com
  5. Dalebüd Cifala de 2012, Dekul 1, Nüm: 1
  6. ^ Ulrich Matthias: Esperanto - A Chance for Europe.
  7. Adalbert Baumann: Wede, the language of the central powers and their friends, the new world auxiliary language. Diessen 1915, p. 30.
  8. Joseph Kürschner (Ed.): Pierers Konversations-Lexikon. Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 1893, p. 899.
  9. ^ Jürgen Oellers: Confusion of languages ​​in Friedrichshafen. The first Volapük Congress in 1884. In: Leben am See. Yearbook, year unknown, pp. 26–37.
  10. Because of the similarity of the words "one has to put a lot of effort into a well-articulated pronunciation" and they are "difficult to remember due to their low phonetic differentiation" according to Heinz F. Wendt (ed.): Das Fischer Lexikon Sprachen. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1977, p. 357.
  11. ^ Langenscheidt : Pocket Dictionary Danish. 2007, ISBN 978-3-468-11103-7 , p. 521.
  12. Erich-Dieter Krause : Large dictionary Esperanto-German . Buske, Hamburg 1999, p. 873.
  13. Kurt Tucholsky: The lion is on the loose! - Full text at Wikisource