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Re: Oddities of Volapük

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  • Ken Caviness
    French and English have multiple vowel sounds represented by the same letter, an awkward situation not to be emulated in a planned language. (English is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2002
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      French and English have multiple vowel sounds represented by the same letter,
      an awkward situation not to be emulated in a planned language. (English is
      particularly difficult in this area.) German is much more regular, although
      there are some complexities of how different vowel combinations (or vowel +
      "h") are pronounced. But once learned, the pronunciation of these letter
      groups is the same wherever they appear.

      In my view, in Volapük Schleyer simply simplified the German vowel system.
      From the Hochdeutsch (a semi-planned language) background he brings
      regularity, but uses no diphthongs at all: each vowel is a separate
      syllable. Like Zamenhof in Esperanto, he makes the obvious choice that each
      letter be pronounced the same way whenever it appears. But he is accustomed
      to "umlauted" vowels from German, and sees no reason to cut the number of
      available vowels down to 5 (a,e,i,o,u), so he retains ä, ö, ü, with
      more-or-less the normal German pronunciation. In fact, Schleyer's use of
      vowel prefixes (*) as tense indicators makes it important to him to have more
      than 5 possibilities, so he sees he has no reason to drop the umlauted vowels
      and every reason to keep them. Moreover Volapük vocabulary is based on
      English, and to a German a phonetic representation of English needs these
      vowels. Thus "bird" in English becomes "böd" in Volapük, etc.

      And make no mistake, these are separate letters for Schleyer, not letters
      modified in some way by an accent. Unlike in German, Volapük makes no changes
      of an unaccented vowel in a word stem to an accented one. (E.g., the
      conjugation of German "fahren": "ich fahre", "du fährst", etc, adds an umlaut
      on the "a" in the 2nd & 3rd person singular.) In Volapük if you use a
      different letter you've got a different word!

      Schleyer did try to reduce the number of distinct consonantal sounds, but IMO
      he went about it in a somewhat haphazard way, and of course Reformed Volapük
      put the "r" back in the language.

      Amike,
      Ken

      (* Oh, and all root words must start with a consonant for the vowel prefixes
      to work, so we get some additional root modification.)

      > Message: 1
      > Date: Wed, 1 May 2002 13:11:59 -0400
      > From: "jjbowks@..." <jjbowks@...>
      > Subject: FW: Oddities of Volapük
      >
      > It would be interesting to find out the rationale
      > for the sound system, specially the umlauted vowels.
      > Good question below...
      > Since,
      > Jay B.
      >
      > From: Daniel Castro Landeira dancastro@...
      > Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 21:19:33 -0300
      > To: AUXLANG@...
      > Subject: Oddities of Volapük
      >
      > Seemingly, when designing Volapük, Schleyer avoided the phoneme /r/
      > because, supposedly, speakers of Chinese or Japanese would have trouble
      > with its pronunciation. So he replaced most r's by l's and came out with
      > words like _flen_ for 'friend' and _blod_ for 'brother'.
      > However, he didn't follow the same criterion of easy pronunciation
      > with relation to the speakers of Arabic, who haven't the phoneme /p/ in
      > their language. To be consistent, he should have replaced also the p's
      > with b's.
      > Strangely enough, he kept all the p's except in one case: the Volapük
      > word for 'politics' is _bolit_.
      > And, of course, if he sought an easy pronunciation for everyone, why
      > did he put eight vowels in the language, including the ones with umlaut,
      > ä, ö and ü? These three don't even appear in European languages like
      > Italian or Spanish.
      > Does anybody know if Schleyer left (as Zamenhof did about Esperanto)
      > publications, letters, etc., where he explained the criteria that he
      > used to choose the roots and grammatical rules for Volapük?
      >
      > Daniel
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