Volapük ("World Language") was invented in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German priest who lived in Baden. Schleyer claimed the idea for creating an international language was suggested to him by God in a dream. His aim was to create a language which was "capable of expressing thought with the greatest clearness and accuracy" (Sprague, 1888) and was easy for as many people as possible to learn.

Schleyer based the vocabulary of Volapük on English, German and Latin and tried to eliminate sounds that would difficult for speakers of other languages to pronounce. Few of the resulting words are easily recognisable to English, German or Latin speakers. Schleyer also tried to reduce words to one syllable, and devised a complex set of grammatical rules for his language - a Volapük verb can have over 500,000 forms!

At first there was little interest in Volapük in the scientific and literary communities. Then in 1882 a society to promote the language was set up in Vienna. In 1884 interest in Volapük spread to Belgium and the Netherlands. By the late 1880s, there were Volapük societies springing up all over Europe, North and South America, Russia and parts of Asia. A number of periodicals in Volapük were published and conferences were held. The first world congress of Volapük was held in Germany in 1884, the second in 1887, the third in 1889. A its peak, Volapük had over 100,000 speakers.

The Volapük movement started to unravel after the third world congress in 1889 at which Professor Auguste Kerckhoffs, an enthusiastic French advocate of the language, was elected president of the Volapük Academy. Schleyer refused to recognise the authority of the Academy and within a few years the Volapük movement had collapsed.

In 1887 that Dr L. L. Zamenhof published his first work on Esperanto, which soon became the international auxiliary language of choice for Volapük enthusiasts and many others.

Volapük alphabet

Latin alphabet for Volapük

Sample texts in Volapük

Valik mens labons leig e lib in dinits e dets. Givons lisäls e konsiens e mutons dunön okes in flenüg tikäl.

Hear a recording of this text by Daniel McFarland


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Volapük | Volapük phrases


Information about Volapük

Handbook of Volapük - by Charles E. Sprague (first published in 1888)

Online lessons in Volapük and links to online Volapük resources

Volapük phrases

International Auxiliary Languages

Blissymbolics, Esperanto, Folkspraak, Ido, Interglossa, Interlingua, Interlingue/Occidental, Interslavic, Lingua Franca Nova, Lojban, Novial, Slovio, Volapük

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet