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Volapük is a constructed international auxiliary language devised 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.

Today, there are a few dozens of speakers of the language.

If you think Esperanto is bad, don't try Volapük. Instead of using the very common five-vowel phonological system (a, e, i, o, u), it uses the much rarer eight-vowel system of North Germanic/Uralic languages. It has contrast between a, ä, and e (English technically has more than five vowels, but their subtleties are assumed and not codified). Words from other languages were often deformed to the point of being unrecognizable, so that everybody would find the lexicon hard to memorize. As an example of this horrible mutation, the name "Volapük" itself is composed of two words derived from English, can you see it? No? Exactly.[1] Also, the accent is always on the last syllable of each word, so the name of the language should be pronounced "volaPÜK".

It has four cases (versus two in Esperanto), adjectives have agreement rules more complicated than in Esperanto, and verbs have complex conjugations.

In short, Volapük sounded and felt like a garbled and unharmonious mishmash of Germanic, Uralic and Altaic. Your mileage may vary, of course, but Esperanto is generally agreed to feel more aesthetic to the ear.

The language was briefly revised and revived by the Dutchman Arie de Jong after World War I, for example by reinstating /r/ as a valid phoneme. Schleyer apparently thought that the Chinese would have trouble pronouncing that sound, so he got rid of it, mangling words like rain into lömib (rein in the revised version).

A Volapük fan tried a couple of years ago to get the Volapük Wikipedia as high up in the list of languages as possible. He did this by filling it with hundreds of thousands of machine translations, mostly involving geographical locations. Pretty huge encyclopedia for a few dozen speakers. Several other obscure language versions of WP have similar problems with many consisting mostly of extremely stubby articles that even a better dictionary would be ashamed of.

Volapük in other languages[edit]

In many languages (including, amusingly, Esperanto itself[2]), Volapük (or a variation of it) often means something like "gibberish". In Russian, "волапюк" (volapyuk) refers to a system invented for using early computers with Roman-alphabet keyboards to write a semblance of Cyrillic text. The word волапюк (or воляпюк) looks and sounds funny to Russian speakers, so it was a natural choice for naming such a cobbled-together system. (See the Wikipedia article on Volapuk encoding.)

External links[edit]


  1. Answer sheet: "vola" derives from "world", and "pük" from "speak".
  2. Definition of the Esperanto word "volapukaĵo" on Wiktionary