This article deals with the 5th version of Poplengwo. It is the same as the 4th version, but updated with the latest alphabet and pronunciation reform and a bit more polished.
Poplengwo is a written and spoken language, since every official human language is spoken and mainly written. To maximize the simplicity, the speaking and writing systems must correpond perfectly: Each sound is allocated to one symbol, and vice versa. And, since the latin alphabet is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world, it is accurate for a good international language. Here is Poplengwo's alphabet and the pronunciation of each of the 24 letters:
a [a]/[ɑ], b [b], d [d], e [e]/[ɛ], f [f]/[ɸ], g [g], h [h]/[x]/[χ], i [i], j [ʐ]/[ʑ]/[ʒ], k [k], l [l]/[ɭ], m [m]/[ɱ], n [n]/[ɳ]/[ŋ], o [o]/[ɔ], p [p], r [ɹ]/[ɻ]/[ɽ]/[ɾ], s [s], t [t], u [u], v [v]/[β], w [w], x [ɕ]/[ʂ]/[ʃ], y [j], z [z].
Note: Only the five red letters are considered as vowels in Poplengwo. The rest are consonnants.
As graphemes and phonemes must be perfectly equivalent, there is no need for capital letters to appear in the words of our international language. Therefore, every word will be lower-case. However, any kinds of other symbols may be used for abbreviated writing.
When you hear a sentence in this language, the spaces between words are not pronounced: they don't stand for a pause like a comma or a point do. So, in order to distinguish words from one another, the trick is to add stresses on them. We put the stress on the whole word except on its last syllable. e.g. "jenxi" ['ɹanʃi], "amerik" ['a'meɹik] Consequently, the monosyllabic words are not stressed. This method makes it possible to distinguish words from one another in a sentence. e.g. [elmian'apel'ʃixwan] -> "el mi an apel xihwan". For this method to work infallibly, words with no vowels (like in Russian) must not exist, for you wouldn't be able to tell that it is a full-fledged word. e.g. "l wo" and "lwo" would be pronounced exactly the same. What's more, it would often be pretty hard to pronounce when the previous word ends with a consonnant and the next one begins with a consonnant too. In short, all words must have at least one syllable.
To separate sentences from one another, we use a point that means that we must pause for a short while before saying the next sentence. The point is surrounded by two spaces. (A text will look like this: "sentence1 . sentence2") If a sentence is the last one of a text, it doesn't need a point at its end because there is no other sentence after it, that's why a text will normally finish (and begin as well) with no punctuation sign. There also exists an excamation mark. It is useful to emphasize a sentence and it will be pronounced louder or more high-pitched than a normal sentence, but even if the whole sentence is more high-pitched, the relative stresses in the words must remain. For readers to know how they have to pronounce a sentence before reading it, the possible exclamation mark will be written just before it. It replaces the point that would be there by default and takes exactly the same place. Yet, in opposition to the point, the exclamation mark can be present at the very beginning of a text, not only between two sentences. Commas can be introduced into a sentence to symbolize a pause (that must be shorter than the pause of a point). They take the same place as a point between two words, that is, there are spaces before and after it. (This is to standardize the punctuation typography.) The interrogation mark doesn't exist. Questions will be expressed with particular words.
Basically, what is language for? One would extempore answer it is used for communicating. So what is communication for? Actually, every time you say or write something, the purpose of this is to act on the world. For example when you say "Give me some coffee please.", you make someone do something for you. It may seem that you only act on the world when you give an order or make a request, but in fact, you also act on it when uttering a mere statement. Indeed, a statement is nothing else than a request for someone to know something, and you can translate any statement into a request, e.g. "I am happy." translates to "Know that I am happy." Also, a question is just a request for someone to answer it, e.g. "What are you doing?" translates to "Tell me what you are doing." So, if we wanted to create a perfectly logical language, we should always use this pattern for every sentence, that is to say make a request with an explicit verb like in the previous sentences: "give", "know", "tell" or whatever you like. (I think that Lojban is not even logical enough to use such sentence patterns...) You will agree that this kind of structure would be pretty tedious to use, and in every natural language, we favor a more implicit yet simpler structure which is not less comprehensible. That is why we are going to do the same in Poplengwo. There is another point about the logical structure of a sentence that should not be forgotten. When you make that request in a sentence, there should be a precision about who is requested to do something, otherwise the request would be ambiguous if there are more than one person in the surrounding area. Still, as before, specifying the destination of the message every time you talk would be quite annoying, so we will also often leave this out, in case the destination is obvious. Should the opposite occur, Poplengwo allows you to specify the destination thanks to a preposition: "hey".
Fundamentally, a sentence is the expression of a relation between a certain number of arguments. It has to express the required arguments and, above all, the name of the relation. Let's call this type of word a verb. This is the very core of the sentence. In order to understand my explanations well, you will have to forget the meaning of grammatical words you knew, because I will use them with a different meaning, though I will define what I am talking about everytime I use a new word. For example, here, what I call a verb is not a category of word, but the role that a word plays in the sentence. So a sentence is composed of a verb, corresponding to Lojban's selbri, and some arguments, corresponding to Lojban's sumti, that link to the verb. In order to make the difference between the verb and its arguments, every argument is preceded by a preposition that determines its function in relation with the verb. The most basical way to form an argument is to put a preposition and then put what I will call a noun. A noun is an elementary entity that can act as an argument. There are three categories of words. Some words can be used as a verb, I will call them relation words. They correspond to Lojban's brivla. Others are bound to play the role of nouns, I will call them object words. They correspond to Lojban's cmene. As both relation and object words have the characteristics to have a meaning in reality, and to play the role of the "building blocks" of the sentence, I will classify them in a set called blocks class. There is eventually a third category of words: the structure words, corresponding to Lojban's cmavo, like for example prepositions. I will classify these in a set called structure class. Although object words are bound to be used as nouns, action words can be used either as verbs, or as nouns, or even as adjectives.
A relation word designates a relation. It is initially designed to play the role of a verb, but can also play several roles in the sentence. You can use it as a noun. In that case, the noun means "the action to do what the word meant as a verb". e.g. "txang" used as a verb means "sing(s)" or "am/is/are singing", and used as a noun means "to sing" or "singing". You can also use it as an adjective. The adjective obtained this way qualifies something that makes the action described by the word, or that displays the state described by the word. e.g. "viti" used as a verb means "live(s)" or "am/is/are living", and used as an adjective means "alive". "azur" used as a verb means "am/is/are blue" and used as an adjective means "blue". Now, why have I chosen the meaning of the verb to define the meanings of nouns and adjectives, and not the opposite? First, because verbs are the only essential words of a sentence, so they need to be the first created. Second, they are the only words from which you can define nouns and adjectives, like I did, which you cannot do in the other way. We can justify this rule with the example of "live". Indeed, we can define "life" as the action of "living" but it is impossible to define "to live" from the word "life".
^ relation words transfer system between categories
Here is a list of some relation words I will be using in examples:
ay = to love [someone]
azur = blue
djidaw = to know [something]
djyan = to see
du = two
ek = to be / equal [equality]
es = to be [+ "an"] [identity, belonging to the set of]
fon = to phone
he = to drink
hong = red
jenxi = to know [someone]
mort = to die
plur = several
somni = to sleep
stranj = strange
studi = to learn / to study
tsay = to be [place]
txang = to sing
txi = to eat
txu = to go
txwambu = whole
verd = green
xihwan = to like
An object word is bound to be used as a noun only. Therefore, every word you will use as a noun, and which does not designate an action, is an object word.
When speaking, you may frequently wish to use some proper nouns. To use a proper noun, you have to transcribe it into Poplengwo's spelling, making so that the pronunciation is as close as possible to the original one, and it has to be preceded by the determiner "i" to specify that this noun is a proper noun.
Here is a list of some object words I will be using in examples:
apel = apple
banan = banana
akwa = water
dia = day
nan = man / male
skul = school
infan = child
sel = sky
mi = [emisor(s), speaker(s)]
ni = [destination(s), person/people spoken to]
ta = [third person / people]
wi = [emisor(s) + third person / people]
yu = [destination(s) + third person / people]
tsan = [emisor(s) + destination(s)]
xe = who? / what?
se = [latest referred noun (Consequently, it is often used as a reflective pronoun.)]
na = [penultimate referred noun]
ak = [antepenultimate referred noun]
fo = [referring to the latest noun marked with the adjective "fa" (see below)]
o = [artifical noun]
What is up with that last "artificial noun"? To express a relative proposition without determining a precise antecedent, we use the pronoun "o" as an antecedent. Here are a few examples:
"I know the one who is eating an apple." = "el mi jenxi an o hum an apel txi"
"I am the one who is eating an apple." = "el mi es el o hum an apel txi"
"The one who is eating an apple is me." = "el o ik an apel txi uk el mi es"
You can see in the list above that you can use the pronouns "se", "na" and "ak" to refer to a recently used noun. Unfortunately, in most of oral or written speeches, so many nouns are used that those pronouns are sometimes not enough to refer to a recently used word, even if this noun designates a fundamental subject of the speech. That is why another pronoun exists to refer to a frequently used noun: "fo". But in order to be able to use it, we first have to define what this noun is. This is precisely the role of the pronoun "fa": insert it inside the argument where the noun in question is when it is first mentoned, and then you can use the pronoun "fo" to refer to this noun as many times as needed. Then, we can always ya-define the noun associated with "fo" by using "fa" again.
There are five kinds of structure words. Prepositions are used to determine the function of an argument. They are the first word of an argument. Determiners are used to introduce complementary precisions to a noun, like an adjective, a number, a noun complement. Adverbs are used to modify the meaning of a relation word. I could also have named them modifiers. Coordinating conjunction are used to link propositions together. Finally, sentence organizers or simply organizers are used to organize the sentence. To be able to talk about all this, I first need to precisely explain the structure of a sentence.
Poplengwo is designed to allow words to appear in (almost) any order you want, so that you can emphasize one, putting it at the begining or at the end for example, although there is maybe one order that is the most logical. So, if such moves are allowed, the words must be marked with some other word, so that we know whether they are the subject, an object complement, a place complement, etc. All the arguments are marked with a different preposition, depending on their function. You recognize a part of the sentence as an argument because it has a preposition before it, and you recognize a verb because it has no preposition before it. The prepositions are always placed before the nominal group. For example, the preposition "an" is used to introduce an object complement. e.g. "el mi an apel xihwan" or "el mi xihwan an apel" or "an apel el mi xihwan" or "an apel xihwan el mi" or "xihwan el mi an apel" or "xihwan an apel el mi" = "I like apples." After the preposition, we can have at most one noun and any number of adjectives and noun complements. As well, inside an argument, you recognize a group of words as being an adjective or a noun complement because it is preceded by a determiner, and you recognize a noun because it has no determiner before it. This way, we obtain a nominal group that would look like this ("0+" means "zero or more"):
[0+ [determiner [adjective or noun complement]]] [1 noun] [0+ [determiner [adjective or noun complement]]]
Note: The determiner will determine whether what follows is an adjective or a noun complement.
An argument (corresponding to Lojban's sumti) is composed as follows:
[preposition [nominal group or subordinate proposition]]
Now, a proposition or predicate (corresponding to Lojban's bridi) would look like this:
[0+ arguments] [1 verb] [0+ adverbs] [0+ arguments]
An entire sentence is composed of (a point or an exclamation mark and) one or several propositions linked together with conjunctions.
^ word classes, categories and their possible use
Prepositions are used at the beginning of an argument, followed by a nominal group. They determine the function of this argument in relation with the verb. Here is a list of them:
ab = from [geographically]
ad = to / towards [geographically]
ago = ago
an = [object marker] / by [in a passive sentence]
ant = before
at = in / on / at [time]
az = as / like
bawt = about [theme/subject]
dan = than / as / in relation to
dank = thanks to
den = in ...'s time
dur = for / during
eks = out of / outside
el = [subject]
far = far from
front = in front of
gens = against [physically]
hey = [destination, vocative case]
hind = behind
hiper = beyond in = in / inside
inter = between
kontr = against [opposition] / versus
koz = because of
mong = among
nir = near / close to
por = for / pro
post = after
sid = beside / next to
sins = since / from
sirk = around
sub = under
sup = over
sur = on
til = until
trans = through
tun = (in order) to / for
The determiner "a" indicates that the following word is an adjective. Note: Adjectives can be used to translate an -ing form, like in the example: "el infan a txang txu ad skul" = "The singing child is going to school." = "The child is going to school singing."
The adjective "plur" is used to form the plural of a noun. However, there is no obligation to use it, even if there are several individuals/things. In some cases it is obvious that you are talking about something in the plural. Not using "plur" does not mean that what you are talking about is singular. Besides, there exists the adjective "mon" meaning "one" to specify the singular.
The determiner "of"s is used to introduce a noun complement. It is generally translated as "of" or as a genitive "s". If that noun complement does not end the nominal group, you have to close it with "uf" which is considered as an organizer (see organizers). The determiner "kon" means "with". "sin" means "without".
The determiner "i" indicates that the following word is a proper noun. It is the only case where a noun is preceded by a determiner.
There are also relative pronouns. Those ones are composed by the basical word "hum" and possibly by a preposition just before it. e.g. "el mi jenxi an nan (el) hum an apel txi" = "I know the man who is eating an apple." "el mi txi an apel an hum el mi xihwan" = "I am eating the apple (that) I like." Note that the antecedent has to be placed right before the relative proposition.
The determiner "ga" introduces a cardinal number. It is time for a list of numbers. Here are numbers from zero to nine: "zer", "mon", "du", "tri", "kwad", "pent", "hek", "hep", "ok", "non". The point before decimals is "poy". To translate a number with several digits, you just have to translate each digit. e.g: "862.13" translates "ok hek du poy mon tri". In scientifical writing there is the word "ten" meaning "times ten power...". For instance, "6.63·10-34" translates to "hek hek tri ten min tri kwad", "min" meaning "minus". Note that the point is not translated in this case because it is conventionally placed after the first digit. So, now just an example with "ga": "apel ga tri" means "three apples". The determiner "di" introduces an ordinal number. For instance, "the fifth planet" translates to "planet di pent".
Adverbs are used to modify the meaning of a relation word. They must be placed right after the word they modify, and can also be accumulated. In that case, the meaning of the group of verb and adverbs has to be understood in the same order as the one in which the words are placed. For example "mort nye no" and "mort no nye" are not the same. The former means "didn't almost die" while the latter means "almost didn't die". So now let's enumerate these adverbs. When you use a verb, by default, you do not bring any precision to it, as long as there is no ambiguity, yet you can specify the tense of the action, when needed, adding the adverb "le" for the past, "ing" for the present or "ya" for the future. e.g. "fon le", "fon ing", "fon ya". As well, we can construct the conditionnal form with "wud" and the imperative form with "ba". To express the passive form of a verb, we add the pronoun "id". When doing this, we exchange the grammatical place of the subject and the object complement.
To ask a question, we either add the adverb "ma" to the proposition if it is a closed (yes/no) question, or, if it is an open question, we replace the unknown part with the relevant interrogation word. If we ask about an argument, we will use the word "xe" and possibly add a preposition before it. If we ask about a description of an argument, we will use the phrase "a xe" = "which one". To ask about a relation between arguments, we will use "xe" as the verb of our question. Eventually, to ask about the way in which an action is done, we'll use "tsem" = "how".
Here is a list of common adverbs:
le [used to specify a past action]
de [designates a repeated or continual action]
idj [transition] (e.g. "jenxi idj" = "to get to know" = "to meet")
ig [impressive action] (e.g. "djyan ig" = "to make see" = "to show")
ba [used to give an order]
ing [used to specify a present action]
ka [capacity] (e.g. "el mi an ni weni ka" = "I can hear you.")
ma [adverb used like an interrogation mark, but only in closed (yes/no) questions.]
tsem = how
les = less
mor = more
nal = there
no = not [used to turn a sentence into negative.]
nye = nearly / almost
ya [used to specify a future action]
id [used to reverse the subject and the object complement of a verb]
wud [used to specify a conditonal action]
hwan [liking] (e.g "somni hwan" = "to like to sleep.")
wa [will] (e.g. "djyan wa" = "want to see.")
Coordinating conjunction, or simply conjunctions (because they are the only ones in Poplengwo), are used to coordinate two statements together. Here they are: "ar" is the word to express the intersection of two statements, or in plain words, to say "and". It is placed between the two statements. e.g. "el mi an apel txi ar el mi an akwa he" = "I am eating an apple and I am drinking water." "hex" is used to express the union of two statements, that is, to say "or". It is also placed between the two statements. "awt" expresses the symmetric difference of two statements, that is, one of the two statements is true, but not both. e.g "! studi ba awt mort ba" = "Learn or die!" We also have rhetorical operators, such as "so" = "so"/"therefore", "yin" = "for"/"because", "kex" = "but", Conjunctions are placed between the two statements they coordinate.
The sentence organizers (or simply organizers) are abstract words that are there only to link words with one another, or to isolate a part of a sentence, so that its meaning is changed.
First let's see organizers that can act on the inner part of a statement, actually on any group of words. The organizers in question are the couple "ik" and "uk". They are useful to isolate a part of a sentence, in order to shorten it, to take off its ambiguity, or even to change its meaning. e.g. "el mi an ik apel txi uk ik akwa he uk" = "I'm eating an apple and drinking water." "el ik nan hum an apel txi uk an mi jenxi" = "The man who is eating an apple knows me." If one wrote "el nan hum an apel txi an mi jenxi" instead, it could also be translated "The man who knows me is eating an apple." or even "The man who knows an apple is eating me.", etc. In order to quote something, you need to start your quotation with "ip" and to end it with "up". If you were mistaken with a word you said, you can get it removed thanks to the word "nop". e.g. "el mi dur dia ga du txi nop somni" = "I ate, no, I mean I slept for two days."
Some organizers (actually two) may be assimilated to English subordinating conjuctions. "jug" = "if" (condition, not "whether"). Close the introduced proposition with "ut" if it is not at the end of a sentence. "dat" is used to introduce any kind of completive proposition. It is generally translated as "that". e.g. "el mi djidaw dat el ni an mi ay" = "I know (that) you love me." Yet it can be translated in another way. When "dat" is accompanied by "ma", it is translated as "if"/"whether". e.g. "el mi djidaw no dat el ni an mi ay ma" = "I don't know whether you love me." When it is accompanied with a "wh pronoun" such as "who"/"what" = "xe", "how" = "tsem"..., it is not translated. e.g. "el mi djidaw dat el xe an apel txi" = "I know who ate the apple." "dat" can also be translated as "the fact that" in sentences like "The fact that the sky is red, is strange." = "stranj el dat el sel hong". The word "dat" is then useful to introduce a proposition where a nominal group would normally be placed. If the proposition "dat" is not at the end of the sentence, you may consider closing the introduced proposition with "ut".
At last, there is also a type of organizer that only links two words together. They are "and" = "and", "or" = "or" and "ksor" = "or but not and". However these organizers can link more than two words together if one of the parts next to the organizer is a "ik/uk" group. e.g. "el mi an apel and banan txi" = "I am eating an apple and a banana." (We could also have said "el mi an apel an banan txi" here.) "el mi an apel a hong and verd txi" = "I am eating a red and green apple." (We could also have said "a hong a verd", though.) "tsay nal el apel ga du ksor tri" = "There are 2 or 3 apples."
In order to be easy to learn by most people worldwide, this language must take its vocabulary from word roots of the most used words in the world. Let's take a look at what natural languages we should refer to. To use a good sample size while keeping things simple, let's choose the lists of the ten most spoken languages. According to Wikipedia, here is the list we obtain this way (as of April 2020):
|Language||% of native speakers|
For every word of our international language, we will match its translation in all ten languages, and choose the one that can be understood by the majority of people. For example, if a word is simarly used by 1 billion A-speakers and by 1 billion B-speakers, and another word is used by 1.5 billion C-speakers, the A and B word root will be chosen. In most cases, if the English word has a different root than the words of the Romance languages, then the Chinese word has to be chosen.