Language profile: Universal
(This profile is based on L I Vasilevskij,
`Neizvestnaja stranica v istorii otechestvennnoj interlingvistiki
-- jazyk Universal (1925 g.)',
in M I Isaev et al. (eds.), Problemy interlingvistiki:
Tipologija i êvoljucija mezhdunarodnyx iskusstvennyx
jazykov, Moscow: «Nauka», 1976.)
The language Universal was designed in 1923-1928 by G I Muravkin
and L I Vasilevskij. It is mentioned on p. 197 of
E Drezen's Historio de la mondolingvo: Tri jarcentoj
de serchado (Leipzig, 1931), but all that is reported there
is that the project is called Universal
(though that had not been its name before the publication;
during its development the authors had been referring to it
as ML, from mondolingvo),
that it was designed in 1925 (a year chosen at random)
by Herlen Vamu (a pseudonym forged by GIM from the initial syllables
of the authors' first names and the surnames)
and that it is «an etymologically reformed Esperanto»
(which it is not, although it certainly owes some things to Esperanto).
According to LIV, no information on the language has been published
- Roman letters
- Used with their IPA values, but in uppercase as well as lowercase.
- Additional letters
- There are five of them, also used with their IPA values:
ø, schwa (here written as @),
esh (here 6), ezh (here 3), eng.
I don't know what the corresponding capitals are supposed to look like.
- A palatalised consonant is marked by a hacek,
a nasalised vowel by a tilde, a long vowel by a circumflex
and an exceptional stressed vowel by an acute accent.
- Is a «buffer vowel» whose mission is to break
impermissible consonant clusters.
- These are the clusters ts, t6,
dz and d3.
- Falls by default on the rightmost non-schwa vowel preceding the last
consonant in the word. If it doesn't, it must be marked by an acute accent.
Parts of speech
Nouns in Universal are marked by the suffix -o
(elidable at least in certain cases).
The same tag o acts as a complementiser:
al gefinu o fargu kaj egnifu o grafu
`he has finished reading and is beginning to write'.
These are a single class in Universal. They have two forms:
an attributive (adjective-like) one and a predicative (verb-like) one.
Is marked by the suffix -a:
mega urbo `big city', penda lampo `hanging lamp'.
The same tag a acts as a preposition:
podo a tablo `leg of a table',
luso a deno `light of day, daylight'.
Is marked by the suffix -u:
urbo megu `(the) city is big',
lampo pendu `(the) lamp is hanging'.
The same tag u acts as a copula when the complement
is a noun phrase: formiko u insekto `(the) ant is an insect'.
This is probably the most characteristic feature of Universal
(indeed, one of its creators suggested in jest that it should
be called Inversal). Inversion relates antonyms of various sorts:
Partial inversion sometimes occurs in compounds:
simpatu `sympathise', mispatu `be hostile'.
|mega `big, great' ||gema `small'
||donu `give' ||nodu `receive'
||za `the' ||az `a(n)'
|tela `far, distant' ||leta `near, close'
||ponu `put' ||nopu `take'
||jen `yes' ||nej `no'
|bona `good' ||noba `bad'
||lisu `speak' ||silu `be silent'
||se `if' ||es `unconditionally'
|bela `beautiful' ||leba `ugly'
||ploru `cry, weep' ||lorpu `laugh'
||kon `with' ||nok `without'
|masa `mass' ||sama `lone, single'
||grafu `write' ||fargu `read'
||do `to, towards, till' ||od `from'
|meza `middle' ||zema `marginal'
||merku `sell' ||kremu `buy'
||kaj `likewise, and' ||jak `contrariwise, but'
|nera `black' ||rena `white'
||produ `produce' ||dorpu `consume'
||al masculine marker ||la feminine marker
||stroju `build' ||jortsu `destroy'
||un `one', singular marker
||nu `several', plural marker
|zea `this' ||eza `that'
||deno `day' ||nedo `night'
||fino `end' ||nifo `beginning'
|zena `the same' ||neza `(an)other'
||kozo `reason, cause' ||zoko `consequence'
||medo `means' ||demo `goal'
Is used widely in order to keep the number of independent roots low.
However, a number of frequent compounds are contracted or abbreviated,
which results in the creation of new roots:
dennedo > dendo `day and night',
evdeno > evdo `morning',
evnedo > evno `evening',
evzaro > evzo `spring',
evrazo > evro `autumn'.
Links families of semantically related words:
Productive derivation and inflexion
Is formed by the suffix -j: denja luso `daylight'.
(Has the same meaning as an a-prepositional phrase.)
Plurality is optionally indicated by (partial) reduplication:
tablo-tablo > tatablo `tables',
kloklora `of many colours' (from klora `coloured'),
marmar6u `walk repeatedly'.
Tense marking is optional. The marker e indicates past tense
when prefixed (ebela `formerly beautiful',
e6efo `ex-boss') and future tense when suffixed and stressed
(sanéa `healthy in the future',
The imperative is marked by the prefix 3
(3@donu `give!', 3@luso `let there be light').
Is optionally indicated by the prefixes al- for male
(altigro `tom tiger', al-D3onson `Mr J., the man J.')
and la- for female (latigro `queen tiger',
la-D3onson `Mrs/Miss J., the woman J.').
«In a limited number of frequent words»
the sex marker is a,
infixed before the last consonant for male (tigar(o) `tom tiger'),
suffixed and stressed for female (tigrá(o) `queen tiger').
Note that al and la are themselves related in the
Verbs can also be marked for sex, with the meaning
`... in a masculine/feminine way', `... like a male/female'.
Direct as well as indirect complements are (optionally) marked
by nasalisation of the final vowels of the noun and its attributes
(this being the only instance of agreement of any sort in the language):
3@donu zeã librõ `give this book!'.
The complementiser o can also be marked for oblique case:
3@nifu õ grafu `start writing!'.
Most of these end in -i, which is sometimes elidable.
Plural pronouns are formed by composition or reduplication;
sex is indicated (optionally) in the same way as on nouns and verbs.
The 3rd person singular inanimate pronoun is lo `it'.
||am(i) `I (m)'
||ma(i) `I (f)'
||imi `we (excl/incl)'
||mimi `we (excl)'
||at(i) `thou (m)'
||ta(i) `thou (f)'
||timi `we (incl), thou/ye and I'
||vi `you (sg)'
||avi `you (sg m)'
||vai `you (sg f)'
||ivi `you (pl)'
||vimi `we (incl), you and I'
||alali `they (m)'
||lalai `they (f)'
Possessive pronouns are formed by the suffix -j:
mija `my/mine', tija `thy/thine', vija `your(s)',
alja `his', laja `her(s)', loja `its' and so on.
Created and maintained by
Ivan A Derzhanski.
Last modified: 13 May 1998.