Volapük (or in English) 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. 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.
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":
|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 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,
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 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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".