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Volapük Vifik: Lärnod Telid

"Are we all nut cases?"

Many people consider Volapük to be a very hard nut to crack. Most of them nowadays seem not to consider grammatical cases even necessary! The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating, so nut cases or not, we can lose nothing at all by having a quick look at the five cases: Here they are:

Del binon jönik = The day is beautiful
Löfob deli jönik = I love a/the beautiful day
Mem dela jönik = The memory of a/the beautiful day
Sagob dele jönik = I say to a/the beautiful day:
o del jönik! = Oh beautiful day!

In Volapük there is no word for "a/an" in English. The closest we can get to such a concept is to use the word for "one" -- del bal.

Neither is there a word for "the" in the normal way of things. However when we use words which have no equivalent in Volapük, be they names of people, places, or things, then the word el (from Spanish) serves for "the".

Let's have a look at the five cases now:

Del is a noun, and is in what is called the nominative case. It is the basic case, and in Volapük always starts and ends with a consonant. Why then, you may ask, does del sometimes add -i, -a and -e? This is to indicate its relationship to other words in the sentence. For example, -i tells us that the word is the object or victim of some action or influence exercised by another word. Look at the second line of the mini-saga above, where deli is the object or victim of love, whereas in the first line, del is very clearly the subject or the doer. Further down, in the third line, we see that dela means "of a day, of the day"; similarly, dele means "to a day, to the day". If we put the letter O all on its own followed by the nominative case, then we begin to wax lyrical, so to speak. We have now gone into raptures of delight, hopefully, by murmuring "Oh beautiful day!" (This is called the vocative case in Volapük., the case you use when directly addressing someone or something.)

The word which describes del is jönik. Such words are called adjectives. Normally they come after nouns in Volapük, whereas in English they come first!

The remaining words are called verbs. They are either doing words (löfob = I love, sagob = I say) or else basic words of being (binon = is). In Volapük, all verbs follow a regular, unchanging pattern, unlike in English, where they are peppered with irregularities or many kinds!

How about having a bit of practice of your own? Using zif (= a town / the town), can you translate the following mini-saga into English?

Zif binon jönik.
Löfob zifi jönik;
Sagob zife jönik:
O zif jönik!

Here are some new words for you to practice by speaking them out loud:

del = a day                     
dog = a dog                     
fa = by                         
fat = a father          
flen = a friend 
gok = a fowl                    
i = also                
jevod = a horse                 
kapar = a goat          
kat = a cat             
kobo (ko) = together (with)
kun = a cow            
labön = to have                 
läd = a lady                    
löfön = to love         
matemat = maths         


mot = a mother
mödik = a lot of, many
nilü = near to
patik = special
pro = for
pük = a language
pükistudan = a language student
sagön = to say
soarajul = an evening school
sör = a sister
suvo = often
tor = a bull
vedön = to become
veütik = important
visitön = to visit
vom = a woman

In Volapük, we already know how to work the verbs in the present tense, that is to say, the here and now. You would have no difficulty in saying I love, we love, she loves, and so on. When we want to say: I am loved, we are loved, she is loved (by someone else), this is called the passive voice, because now the lover (the doer) has become the loved one (the recipient).

Here is how the passive voice looks in the present; it is made simply by joining the prefix pa- to the beginning of the verb as follows:

PALÖFÖN ‘to be loved’
palöfob ‘I am loved’palöfobs ‘we are loved’
palöfol ‘you are loved’palöfols ‘you are loved’
palöfom ‘he is loved’palöfoms ‘they are loved’ (masculine)
palöfof ‘she is loved’palöfofs ‘they are loved’ (feminine)
palöfon ‘he/she/it is loved’palöfons ‘they are loved’ (neuter, mixed)

Supposing we wanted to say: I am loved by my mother. The word by would be rendered in Volapük by fa, thus: Palöfob fa mot obik.

In Volapük, the gender of people or other living things is mostly obvious from the word itself, for example: man = a man, vom = a woman, sör = a sister. However, this is not always so, and in such instances, the English forms hi- and ji- are then prefixed to the ambiguous word. For example: gok = a fowl, whereas higok = a cock and jigok = a hen.

Even the gender of the word meaning "the" can be shown by the prefixes hi- and ji- as in hiel and jiel, but more on this later!

1. Translate the following story into English:

Hiel "Samül" lödom in dom gretik e nulädik in zifil jönik. Binom studan in niver. Fat omik binom "Robert" -- binom büsidan e vobom in bür. Mot omik binof "Lisabet" -- binof tidan e tidof in jul smalik. Sör omik binof "Janin". Vobof in zif gretik in bür, bi binof sekretan. ün timül at vakenof in Spanyän. Blod omik binom "Peter" binom vemo yunik.

1a. Can you now tell the same story based on the above beginning with either "Lisabet" or "Janin"?

2. In English, we should translate the name "Samül" as "Sammy" because by appending -ül to the names of people, an affectionate and endearing quality is introduced. However, the real meaning of this suffix is "the young of" especially with regard to animals. How would you translate:

katül, jevodül, kunül, jigokül, hikaparül

Have a go at a few names, now, and also the "affectionate and endearing" aspect when applied to humans:

Peterül, Lisabetül, Robertül, motül, fatül, cilül

Lastly, even inanimate words may receive this endearing suffix as well, as in timül = "a mo'". The important thing is not to get it mixed up with the suffix -il which means something different.

3. Now that you are familiar with the passive voice, look at the following sentence: Panemob "Samül" fa mat obik = I'm called "Sammy" by my mother.

say: I'm called "Pete" by my father; I'm called "Lizzie" by my mother.

4. The word el mentioned above is used with words which have not been assimilated into Volapük. These include proper names and foreign words, which always appear in the singular. Any plurals are shown by the fact that el adds an -s to denote this. For example: el "Sputnik" = "Sputnik" els "Sputnik" = "Sputniks". Talking of Sputniks, have another glance at the mini-sagas above and write: The Sputnik; I love the Sputnik; The memory of the Sputnik; I say to the Sputnik: Oh beautiful Sputnik!

A bit crazy, you may think! The only reason is to avoid ambiguity in the language. Coming to a more personal level, write: I love Robert; the memory of Elizabeth; I say to Rachel: O beautiful Rachel!

5. Now have a look at what some of the family's friends have to say:

El "Samül" labom hiflenis tel. Panemoms "Steven" e "David" e lödoms nilo. I labom jifleni in niver. Panemof "Rajel" e binof jönik. Sör omik, "Janin", labof jiflenis tel, "Katlin" e "Rosan", e hifleni patik, "Paul".

Steven: Glidis! Binob flen ela Samül. Nem obik binon Steven e lödob nilü dom omik. Ün timül at, studob matemati in niver, bi vilob vedön büsidan veütik.

David: Glidis! Binob i flen ela Samül e lödob nilü zif. Nem obik binon David. Ün timül at, binob pükistudan in niver. Reidob vemo bi vilob lärnön pükis mödik.

Katlin: Glidis! Binob flen ela Janin. Nem obik binon Katlin e vobob ko of in bür. Binobs flens gudik, e visitobs domi ofik suvo.

Rosan:: Glidis! Binob i flen ela Janin e vobob kobo ko of ed el Katlin in bür. Nem obik binon Rosan. Lärnob Spanyänapüki in soarajul, bi vilob vakenön in Spanyän.

Paul: Glidis! Binob i flen patik ela Janin. Nem obik binon Paul e pro of binob flen vemo veütik! Id el Samül labom jifleni patik: nem ofik binon Rajel.