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Volapük Vifik: Lärnod Balid

"A Sound Guide to Volapük"

The Volapük alphabet has 27 letters, namely:

a, ä, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, ö, p, r, s, t, u, ü, v, x, y, z -- 8 vowels and 19 consonants.

The vowels are pronounced in the following manner:

A: [ɑ] as in "father"
Ä: [ɛ] as E in "met"
E: [e] as French É in "été"
I: [i] as in "machine"
O: [ɔ] as in "port"
Ö: [ø] as French EU in "jeu"
U: [u] as OO in "soon"
Ü: [y] as French UE in "rue"

The consonants are pronounced in the following manner:

B, D, F, H, K, L, M, N, P, T, V, Y: as in English

C: [tʃ] as CH in "church"
G: [ɡ] always as in "go"
J: [ʃ] like SH in "shoe"
R: [r] should be rolled
S: [s] always as in "so"
X: [ks] always as in "flex"
Z: [ts] like TS in "bits"

In Volapük, every single letter must be clearly sounded!

Practie now with the numbers from one to ten:

  • bal, tel, kil, fol, lul, mäl, vel, jöl, zül, deg.

Practise these words of one syllable:

  • flor (flower), hit (heat), fluk (fruit), nif (snow).

Words of more than one syllable are always stressed on the last syllable. Practice:

  • floRÜP ("flower-time" = Spring)
  • hiTÜP ("heat-time" = Summer)
  • fluKÜP ("fruit-time" = Autumn)
  • niFÜP ("snow-time" = Winter)

Try 2 consecutive vowels: rein = rain (pronounce: ray-EEN)
Try 3 consecutive vowels: neai = never (pronounce: nay-ah-EE)

One last important point: Try to make a habit of saying each word out loud! You may feel a little self-conscious doing this to start with, but you will soon become familiar with the sounds of the language, not all of which are exactly like the sounds we are accustomed to in English. Furthermore, we gain much more confidence this way!

Now take a look at the following words and say them out loud:

at ‘this’nulädik ‘modern’
bi ‘because’ofik ‘her’
binön ‘to be’omik ‘his’
blod ‘brother’reidön ‘to read’
böd ‘a bird’saidiko ‘sufficiently, enough’
bür ‘an office’sekretan ‘a secretary’
büsidan ‘a businessman’smalik ‘small’
cil ‘a child’sol ‘the sun’
dom ‘a house’sör ‘a sister’
e ‘and’Spanyän ‘Spain’
ekö ‘here is/are’stral ‘a ray’
famül ‘a family’studön ‘to study’
flor ‘a flower’tefik ‘corresponding (to), relating (to)’
gretik ‘big, large’tidön ‘to teach’
gudik ‘good’timül ‘a moment’
gudiko ‘well’topön ‘to be situated’
in ‘in (place)’ün ‘at, in (time)’
jönik ‘beautiful, lovely’vakenön ‘to be on holiday/vacation’
jul ‘a school’vemo ‘very / very much’
julan ‘a pupil (at school)’vifik ‘fast, quick’
kel ‘which, who’vilön ‘to want to’
lärnön ‘to learn’vobön ‘to work’
lödön ‘to live, reside’vöd ‘a word’
nem ‘a name’yan ‘a door’
niver ‘a university’yunik ‘young’
nuf ‘a roof’zif ‘a town’

In Volapük there is no separate word for "a" or "an" as there is in English; neither does Volapük use a separate word for "the" except in special circumstances, which will be mentioned later.

As in English, words form plurals simply by adding -s.

Words ending in -ik are adjectives, words ending in -o are adverbs, and words ending in -ön are verbs. Note also how all nouns start and end with a consonant.

1. In Volapük, the suffix -il is appended to words in order to express the idea of smallness. Instead of saying jul smalik, the word julil is shorter and its meaning is the same. On the other hand, a longer way of expressing zifil would be zif smalik.

1a. How would we say in English:

  • büril, domil, cilil, söril, blodil, famülil
  • Now make up a couple of your own!

2. Another useful suffix is -an. This denotes a member of a profession, society, country, philosophy or other discipline.

2a. How would you say in Volapük:

  • a clerk (in an office), a businessman, a lodger, a learner, a reader, a student, a worker

3. The personal pronouns in Volapük are:

  • ob / obs = I / we
  • ol / ols = you (1 person) / you (more than 1 person)
  • om / oms = he / they (all males)
  • of / ofs = she / they (all females)
  • on / ons = it / they (neuter or mixed gender)

These words are of course used separately, but here is how they fit into the verbal action! First of all, take any infinitive, remove the final -ön, and proceed accordingly:

BINÖN ‘to be’
binob ‘I am’binobs ‘we are’
binol ‘you are’binols ‘you all are’
binom ‘he is’binoms ‘they are’ (masculine)
binof ‘she is’binofs ‘they are’ (feminine)
binon ‘it is’binons ‘‘they are’ (neuter/mixed gender)

3a. Choose a few more verbs and really get used to them, like this.

4. You will notice that vilob (= I want) plus lärnön (= to learn) corresponds exactly to "I want to learn" in English -- vilob lärnön. If we say Ob vilob lärnön, then a great deal of emphasis is being given, because the ob appears twice -- "I want to learn!"

4a. Say in Volapük:

  • He wants to work, they want to teach, I want to read, she wants to go on holiday

5. Now to the most interesting part! Read the following introductions, and say them out loud. Glidis! is how we say "hello" in Volapük!

Glidis! Binob Samül. Binob studan in niver. Ekö famülans obik:
Fat obik binom büsidan. Vobom in bür nulädik. Nem omik binon "Robert".
Mot obik binof tidan. Tidof in jul smalik. Nem ofik binon "Lisabet".
Sör obik binof sekretan. Vobof in bür gretik in zif. Ün timül at vakenof in Spanyän. Nem ofik binon "Janin".
Blod yunik obik binom cil. Binom julan. Nem omik binon "Peter".
Lödobs in dom gretik e nulädik in zifil jönik.