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Uropi and Volapük

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Volapük is a constructed language which was created by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German catholic priest in 1879-1880.
See, in French: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volap%C3%BCk
or in English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volap%C3%BCk

Uropi has sometimes been compared to Volapük, although these two international auxiliary languages (IAL) are very different.
However, our relations with Volapükists have always been rather positive: when Uropi came out in 1986, we were advised and supported by the great Dutch Volapükist leader, (the cifal) Filippus Johann Krüger, with whom we corresponded until his death in 1992. We greatly missed him; he gave us such good advice.

Why did some people compare Uropi and Volapük ?

The vocabulary

The first reason, I think, is undoubtedly that basic words in both languages are monosyllabic.
For example: Vol. vöd, nem, nuf, blod, zif, flen, tor, del, neit, län, yel, vat, fil… = Ur. vord, nom, tag, frat, pol, fram, taur, dia, noc, land, jar, vod, foj… (= word, name, roof, brother, town, friend, tower, day, night, country, year, water, fire…)
Certain words are exactly the same: man, flor, in, sol, kat, dom, pos, dol, vun, stel, su, flam… (man, flower, in, sun, cat, house, after, pain, wound, star, on, flame…)


Other similarities can be observed between Uropi and Volapük, for ex: Vol. memön = Ur. rumeno (remember) pöfik > pöfikan = pavri > pavrin (poor, a poor person), sevön = zavo (know), spelön = spero (hope), studön = studo (study), yunik = jun (young), famül = famìl (family), vedön (from G. werden = to become) = vido (from G. wird = becomes), studan = studan (student), veratik = veri (true), vero = verim (really), seil = silad (silence), kolkömön = kogono (to meet), as sam = po samp (for example), cif = cef (chief), cifik = cevi (main, chief), ko = ki (pref. ko-) = with, medinav = medik (medicine), nutimik = kotemi (contemporary), valik = tal (all), vög = voc (voice), nek = nekun (nobody), kredön = kredo (believe), det = dest (the right), pon = pont (bridge), step = stap (step), nemögik = anmozli (impossible), stunükön = stumo (stun), ya = ʒa (already), kap = keb (head), stim (honour), stimad (esteem), tim = tem (time), lobön = lobo (to praise), naf = nav (ship), klebön = klevo (to stick),…

However, the taste for monosyllables is not so absolute in Uropi as in Volapük: for ex. Vol. bür = Ur. burò (office), plöp = Ur. prosperid (prosperity), xam = Ur. eksàm (exam), pük = linga (language)… Besides, in Uropi, there are also nouns ending in -a (among which feminine nouns: ʒina (woman) = Vol. vom, mata (mother) = Vol. mot, sesta (sister) = sör…etc.)

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Europ copie

Vol: tor = u taur

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Monosyllables are very convenient to form compounds that are not too long. For ex. Ur. skrivitab (desk, lit. writing table) as in German Schreibtisch, whereas if you combine the same elements in Italian, that is tavolo and scrivere, you get tavolo da scrivere which is very long or tavoloscrivere if you make a solid compound as in capostazione (station master).
Both languages use the genitive: Volapük -a, Uropi -i, -u to link the two elements of a compound.
For ex: vol (world) + -a + pük (language) > volapük = world language.
This central vowel is all important, not only because it facilitates the pronunciation, but also because it indicates precisely where you can separate the elements in order to analyze, and thus understand the compound.
For ex. Ur. vod-i-fàl, sol-i-flòr, lun-i-luc, luc-i-tòr, kin-u-stel, vim-u-sport…(waterfall, sunflower, moonlight, lighthouse, film star, winter sport)…
It’s not always easy to analyze compounds in German, a language where they are so numerous: for ex, when you see Wehrpflicht (military service), you may believe that the second element is Licht (light), although ‘Wehrpf’ doesn’t mean anything, or in zumessen (to measure), you may understand zum essen (to eat), or in Schreibtisch (see above), you may see Schrei (cry).

Other examples of compounds in Volapük and Uropi: pükatidel = Ur. lingudictor (language teacher), motapük = matulinga (mother tongue), nulayel = Novi Jar (New Year), domanim = domibest (pet, lit. ‘home animal’), potakad = postikart (postcard), vinaglät = vinivàs (wine glass), vödabuk = vordar (dictionary, lit. ‘word book’), slipacem = sopikamar (bedroom ‘sleeproom’), valasotik = talesorti (of any kind), futaglöpäd = podibàl (football), banacem = bania (bathroom), soarajul = vespeni skol (evening school)…  

Moreover Volapük was  often criticized for building too long compounds, adding too many elements, as for example in disnufaspadäd = udetàg (attic) or jöltumveldegmälmil = 876 000. This is why, the great Volapük reformer Kerckhoff wanted to limit compounds to two elements. This is what is done in Uropi: when they are too long or too numerous, the elements of a compound are separated, for example: 876 000 = ocsunte sepdes-ses tilie, or Volapük Nedänapükans, in Uropi: Nizilandi vokore = Dutch speakers.

Similar constructions  

Vol: matan (from English mate) married = Ur. maʒen (from Slavic mąż, manžel, məž, muž = man, husband), hence Volapük himatan, jimatan = maʒ, maʒa (husband, wife), V. mated = maʒad (marriage), matikön = maʒo (to marry).
läd (from Eng lady) = dama (from Fr., G. Dame, Rus dama) > lädul = damita (miss, lit. ‘little lady’, cf Sp. señora > señorita)
valasotik = talesorti (of all kind), ge-spikön = ru-voko (answer, lit. ‘speak back’)
Klotön = vesto (to dress), beklotön = bevesto (to coat, cover), lifön = ʒivo (to live), belifön = aʒivo (animate, liven), finön = fendo (finish), dafinön = usfendo (complete), kipön = teno (hold), gekipön = ruteno (retain), vokön = calo (call), gevokön = rucalo (call back), konfid = fedad (trust), mikonfid = misfedad (mistrust), gebön = uzo (use), migebön = misuzo (misuse), tim = tem (time), bevütim = intratèm (interval, lit. ‘between-time’), klebön = klevo (to stick), deklebön = diklevo (unstick), blod = frat (brother), koblod = kofràt (colleague), vobön = varko (work), kovobön = kovarko (collaborate), flam = flam (flame), niflamön = inflamo (inflame), flapön = plago (to hit), niflapön = inplago (knock in, hammer in),
(Fino pos tim lunik!Fendim pos u longi tem! = Finally, after a long time)

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Vol: bür = u burò

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Ambiguous Volapük words and false friends

However numerous Volapük terms make us think of words that have a completely different meaning in other languages, for example:
Vol. blod (brother): blod means ‘blood’ in Scandinavian languages and in English, nulik (new): ≠ fr. nul, Ur nuli (= null), vol (world) ≠ Ur. volo (= to want, D. wollen, It. volere; Sp. voluntad, Rus volia…(will) or Fr. voler, It. volare, Sp. volar (to fly), sedön (send) ≠ Ur sedo (to sit = It. sedere, Sr. sedeti, Lit. sėdėti …), ter (uncle) ≠ Ur ter (earth = Fr. terre, It., Por. terra, Sp. tierra …), bel (mountain) ≠ Ur. bel (= beautiful, = Fr., beau, belle, bel, It. bello, Por. belo …)

False friends

There are a lot of false friends in Volapük and Uropi, for example:
Vol. kun (cow) ≠ Ur. kun (dog), tor (bull) ≠ tor (tower), vom (woman) ≠ (he) vom (‘he’ vomits), köst (cousin) ≠ kost (cost), od (each other) ≠ od (from), pal (parent) ≠ pal (stake, pale), vol (world) ≠ (he) vol (‘he’ wants), gad (garden) ≠ gad (ford), horit (horizon) ≠ horit (an hour or so), is (here) ≠ is (if), us (there) ≠ us (out), fino (at least) ≠ fin (fine), fümo (certainly) ≠ fumo (to smoke), kim ? (who ?) ≠ kim ? (how ?), patik (special) ≠ pati (ill), cal (profession) ≠ cal (call), pod (apple) ≠ pod (foot)…

Volapük has often been criticized (but rarely Uropi) for distorting natural roots.

Deformed roots

Let us first note that the natural evolution of languages ​​distorts roots and words. For example the Latin  word caupo = inkeeper, publican, gave kaufen (= to buy in German), kopen in Dutch, købe in Danish, köpa /∫ə:pa/ in Swedish, kupit’ in Russian, koupit in Czech, etc., hence Uropi kopo which is very similar to the Dutch term.
In Uropi the rule is the following: not deform the roots more than natural languages do.

The Volapük roots are nearly always distorted English roots, even when the latter are not international at all, as, for example böd (from bird).
I think Volapük goes too far and makes the roots unrecognizable. For example: yel, vol, pük, tikön (from Eng. think) tidön (from Eng. teach), nuf (from Eng. roof ??), jinön (from G. scheinen), jul (from G. Schule), jönik (from G. schön), del (from Eng. day), cil (from Eng. child) … = Ur. jar, mold, linga, meno, dicto, tag, semo, skol, bel, dia, kid …(year, world, language, think, teach, roof, seem, school, beautiful, day, child)

In Volapük, every root should be as short as possible, thus ‘compliment’ becomes plim.
Certain Volapük words are real enigmas.. Where do the following words come from ? yan = dor (door), zif = pol (town), düp = hor (hour), = a (to), läbik = felic (happy), gidik = justi (fair), lotan = gost (guest), boso = u poj (a little), kipedöp = vendia (shop), vobön = varko (to work), löpik = sube (above), miotik = suj (dirty), glidön = gratulo (congratulate), logön = vizo (see, from look ???), säkäd = problèm (problem), fluk = frut (fruit), fum = murf (ant),  lan = alm (soul),
We can sometimes guess the meaning of some of them: gok = chicken may come from English cock, votik = other, may come from English other which gives otik to which Volapük adds a V because all words must begin with a consonant..

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Vol: cil = u kid

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Volapük has rather strange rules

- Every noun or verb root must necessarily start and end with a consonant.
Not only basic words have to be monosyllables, but they also have to be C-V-C (consonant - vowel - consonant), which can certainly facilitate the pronunciation, but makes the words even more unrecognizable.
Who can recognize haben, hebben, have in läbön = to have, bring, bringen in blinön = to bring, alt, old in bäldik = old, street in süt = street, Forst, forest in fot = forest, rest, reste in ret = rest, half, halb in laf = half ?

- Moreover Schleyer had decided to get rid of the R in Volapük because supposedly the Chinese couldn’t pronounce it. So that the word 'roz', which is however c-v-c, becomes lol: first because the eliminated r has been replaced by an l, then because a word cannot end with z or s: S is reserved for the plural, and cannot be pronounced after a z. So we have a second l at the end of the word and roz has become lol.

Likewise, we have the Volapük term jim = scissors (= Ur. skis, from English scissors, Fr. ciseaux, Ur. cizo = to sever, Gr. skhizô = to split), which comes from German Schere, hence jer, but the R must be replaced, so the word becomes jel, but jel already means protection, so it becomes jil, but jil already means female, so we have jim which no longer has any relation with German Schere.

When you get rid of the r it is  difficult to recognize travel in tävön = Ur. vaizo (travel), or trouver in tüvön = Ur. findo (to find) or prince in plin = Ur. prins. In modern Volapük (Volapük nulik), they have reintroduced a few Rs, for example in redik (from. red) = Ur. roj, instead of ledik.  

Another interesting example is the Volapük word jevod (from French cheval = horse); this word comes from Latin caballus which gave Sp. caballo, It. cavallo, Por cavalo, Cat cavall, Fr. cheval, Alb kalë, Rom. cal, Picard kva, and thus Uropi kwal. The Uropi word seems to be the result of a natural evolution from the Latin term, whereas the Volapük word seems to be a groundless, purely artificial distortion.

In the same way Uropi mol (much) is a simplified Italian word: molto which lost the final t under the influence of Greek poly and German viel (in Catalan: molt you can hardly hear the t), whereas we do not know exactly where the Volapük words: mödik, mödo come from; from English much ?

Blend words in Uropi

Uropi may sometimes lose a few final consonants as in mol (< molt, see above) or in tab (< Fr., Eng. table, cf Picard: tabe, tave), but it is much rarer than in Volapük; for ex. vöd, län, pon, spot, fot, fom,… = Ur. vord, land, pont, sport, fost, form… (word, country, bridge, sport, forest, form)…

What is sometimes seen as a distorted root in Uropi is actually a blend word (or blend), which is also called a portmanteau word and a mot-valise in French. It consists in combining parts of two or more words or roots in order to form a new term. Perhaps the best-known example is the famous London smog formed with SMO- from smoke and -OG from fog.

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Vol: kun = u gova

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The following examples illustrate the difference between 'distorted' roots in Volapük and blends in Uropi.
The word vol, first syllable of Volapük, comes from English world; r-d have been removed, the w has been transformed into v, and the English sound /ə:/ in -or into o. Thus it is perfectly impossible to recognize the English word: people will rather think of Ur. volo (to want, see above) or of French voler (to fly)…
The equivalent Uropi term is formed by blending French monde and English world; of monde we keep MO-D, of world: -O-LD and thus we get ‘mold’.
The difference is that the Volapük word is far removed from the original term, with no other advantage than making the pronunciation easier, and thus made unrecognizable, whereas Uropi brings its word closer to two equivalent terms in different languages, which makes it more familiar.

But let us take other examples.
In Volapük flen it is difficult to recognize English friend or German Freund and even less Dutch vriend (although flen is somewhat closer to Danish ven). For this term, Uropi has blended the Germanic root: friend/Freund > FR- with the Romance root AM- (ami/-co/-go) to form fram. The advantage is that fram (friend) is very close to frat (brother) and, as the Chinese proverb goes:
« U fram se talvos u frat, ba u frat se ne talvos u fram. »
(a friend is always a brother, but a brother is not always a friend)
Besides, friend/Freund, and thus fram, stem from the common Indo-European root *prihₓ-ehₐ- (I-E pr- > Germ. fr-) = to love, which also gave the Slavic word prijatel = friend as well as Hindi words: fram is very close to Hindi prem = love.

To finish a third example: Volapük löf that stems from English love. This is a common I-E root: *leubh-, which also gave the verbs: G. lieben and Rus. lioubit’, but löf is far from love, lieb-, liub-. Uropi blends this root *leubh-, lieb, liub- >  LI- with a second PIE root AM- (from *am(m)a = mum > motherly love) hence Romance amar/e, amor/e (see fram above) to form liam, liamo (love, to love). This is almost the Bavarian word: i liab = Uropi i liam (I love).

In any case, those blend words are not very numerous in Uropi: they represent 4% of words in a text, and 6% of monosyllables in the dictionary.

The grammar

But it is when you compare the grammar that you become aware of how different both languages are.
The Volapük grammar is perfectly, mathematically logical, but it is very complicated; and above all the grammatical features are completely artificial. Uropi is much more simple and much more natural.

Yet, we shouldn’t forget that, before Volapük, nearly all constructed languages were artificial, a priori, like for example, Solresol (made of music notes) or philosophical languages like Letellier’s language: (ege, egi, ego, egu… = father, son, brother, husband…), with the remarkable exception of Jean Pirro’s Universal glot in 1868: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalglot.
Schleyer was still under the influence of those languages: this can be clearly seen in his conjugation system and his personal pronouns.
Only a few years later with Esperanto would begin the great movement towards more and more naturalistic, constructed languages such as Ido, Occidental, Novial, Interlingua, LFN, etc.

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Vol: fluks = frute

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Volapük has kept a declension system with four cases as in German: nominative, accusative, dative, genitive. It is quite clear that most languages which had declensions in their old form, tended to get rid of them during their evolution, starting with nouns: German has limited its declension to articles (and adjectives to a certain extent). Modern Greek has done away with the dative for nouns and adjectives and limited the accusative to masculine and articles: N. o anthropos, A. ton anthropo = human being, N. î yineka, A. tî yineka = woman…

Uropi has only kept a genitive as in English and Scandinavian languages (as well as modern Greek).

Otto Jespersen says that the genitive is the case « that has best resisted the corrosive tendencies found in all languages ». But above all the genitive is very convenient to form compounds (see above) and adjectives from nouns (for ex. man > mani (man, male/masculine), noc > noci (night, nightly)…
Nevertheless, Uropi has also kept an accusative and a dative for personal pronouns, as in German and modern Greek : ich, mich, mir = egô, me, mou = Ur. i, ma, mo (I, me, to me…).
Ironically the noun endings in Volapük and Uropi are practically the same (with a different meaning, of course).

VOL.     SING:     nom: ø            gen. -a             dat. -e         acc. -i
              PLUR.     nom. -s           gen. -as           dat. -es        acc. -is

UR.       SING.     nom. ø / -a       gen. -i / -u
             PLUR.     nom. -e /-as     gen. -is, -us

Yet, when you look at the Volapük verb and conjugation, you realize that everything is artificial and a priori:
For example personal pronouns:
VOL.    ob, ol, om, of, on (neuter), os (impersonal)    PL. obs, ols, oms, ofs, ons, oy
UR.       i,    tu, he,  ce, je         -                                          nu,  vu,   lu        -     -

We should also add ok, oks = oneself, od, ods = each other and two other forms that are rarely used: og, ogs = you or me, and or, ors (polite form; for the polite form, Uropi uses the pronoun vu (you plural) as in French 'vous', modern Greek and Slavic languages: vy, vi, wy, and sometimes in Italian : voi).

But the strangest thing is that those rather peculiar ‘personal pronouns’ are agglutinated behind the verb like suffixes in order to conjugate it. For example, the present of the verb löfön = to love is: löfob, löfol, löfof, löfon, löfom, löfos… löfobs, löfols, löfoms, löfofs, löfons, löfoy… (I love, you love, he loves… etc.)

Something similar is rarely found in natural languages. It could be compared with the Turkish verb: geliyor-um, geliyor-sun, geliyor, geliyor-uz, geliyor-sunuz, geliyor-lar (I come, you come, he comes…) but these are rather verbal endings as in Italian: -o, -i, -a, -iamo, -ete, -ano, which are different from personal pronouns: ben, sen, o, biz, siz, onlar.
The Uropi present, on the other hand, is as simple as a Chinese present: i liam, tu liam, he liam…etc = Chi. wŏ ài, nĭ ài, tā ài…etc. (I love, you love, he loves… etc.)

Not only is the Volapük verbal system totally artificial, but its different forms are much too similar: they can be very easily mixed up.
To form the other tenses, a vowel is added before the verb root. M.Monnerot Dumaine, in his Précis d’Interlinguistique, calls this conjugation « archaic and too sophisticated ». Wikipedia is more moderate and says it is « rather complicated ».
For example, with the verb löfön (love), for the first person we have, löfob (in the present, the prefìx a-, is added in the passive), älöfob, elöfob, ilöfob, olöfob, ulöfob, ölöfob, ülöfob… = Ur. i liam, i liamì, i av liamen, i avì liamen, i ve liamo, (I love, I loved, I have loved, I had loved, I’ll love… the other tenses are the future perfect, the future past, the future pluperfect)…

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Vol: nufs = tage

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To form the passive, Uropi uses the auxiliary vido (to become) + past participle as in German, Dutch and Scandinavian languages, for ex: De mus vid jeden pa de kat (the mouse is (gets) eaten by the cat), whereas in Volapük, you add the prefìx p(a) to the verb: palöfob = i vid liamen (I am loved), pälöfob = i vidì liamen (I was loved)… etc. For example: Palöfob fa mot obik = i vid liamen pa mi mata (I am loved by my mother).    
To all this must be added the optative (suf. -ös), the subjunctive (-la), the conditional (-öv, as in Uropi -ev), the participle (-öl).

Not only is this verbal system very complex and very unusual*, but again, the different forms are much to similar and could be easily confused, especially in the spoken language. How can you hear the difference between elöfob (with /e/) and älöfob (with /ɛ/) or ölöfob (with /ə/), or between olöfob, ulöfob and  ülöfob ?
In addition, it makes known words unrecognizable.
For example: Ovisitob oli ün vig okömöl = Ur. i ve vizito ta nes sedia (de venan sedia). (I’ll visit you next week, lit. ‘coming week’)
Or: ägolölo ve süt, älogob fleni bäldik oba = Ur. Itan alòng de strad, i vizì u seni fram (mi) (going along the street, I saw an old friend (of mine)
Who can recognize « going along the street » in ägolölo ve süt ? How is it possible not to confuse ‘ägolob’ and ‘älogob’ ? = Ur. i itì ≠ i vizì (I went ≠ I saw)

The Uropi verb has no personal inflection, and only eight forms in all: ø, -o, -ì, -ev, -en, -an, -e, -em (present, infinitive, past, conditional, participles, imperatives) + one particle and 3 auxiliaries : ve, so, avo, vido
The Uropi noun has seven forms: ø, -i, -a, -e, -as, -is, -us

In Volapük there are 14 personal endings, at least 8 tenses in the active as well as in the passive voices (leaving out the imperative, subjunctive, optative, conditional…), which makes at least 280 verbal forms. According to Wikipedia, it has been claimed that each verb could have 500.000 different forms.
A few examples:
V. Seadom su stul = U. He sed su u sel (he sits on a chair)
Seadükom cili sui stul = He asèd de kid su u sel (he sits the child on a chair)
Äseadikom sui stul = He sedì niz su u sel (he sits down on a chair)

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Vol: pon = u pont

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Volapük -öv = Uropi -ev

Ex. If stom binonöv koldikum, ba nifosöv = Is verem videv frijes, je mojev snevo (If the weather got (would get) colder, it might snow)
If ikömomöv, ägivoböv ome givoti = Is he avev venen, i avev daven ho u kodàv (If he had (would have) come, I would have given him a present)

Other examples
Adelo logob oli, klu elogob oli = Odia i viz ta, sim i av vizen ta (Today I see you, so I have seen you)
Ädelo älogob oli, klu ilogob oli = Jesta i vizì ta, sim i avì vizen ta (Yesterday I saw you, so I had seen you)
Edeadom bü yels fols = He morì kwer jare for (He died 4 years ago)

* We could also compare Volapük to certain Bantu languages, for example Lingala (spoken in the Congo) and Zulu (spoken in South Africa).
Lingala has prefixed 'personal pronouns': na-, o-, a-, e-, to-, bo-, ba- e-, for example with the verb koloba = to say, we have: nalobi, olobi, alobi, elobi (animals and things), tolobi, bolobi, balobi… = Ur. i dez, tu dez, he/ce dez, je dez, nu dez, vu dez, lu dez… (I say, you say, he says… etc.) However, these ‘prefixed pronouns’ are different from the ‘isolated’ pronouns: ngai, yo, ye, yango, biso, bino, bango, yango.

It is the same in Zulu, the personal pronouns agglutinate before the verb. For example with the verb ukuhamba = to go, we have ngihamba = I go: ngihamba ngebhasi = i far busim (I go by bus). Once again, prefixed 'personal pronouns': ngi-, u-, si-, ni- = Ur. i, tu, nu, vu are different from the ‘isolated’ personal pronouns: mina, wena, thina, nina = i, tu, nu, vu (I, you, we, you)
In the future, -zo- is inserted between the personal pronounl and the verb root: ngizohamba kusasa = i ve ito domòr (I’ll go tomorrow). Zulu here is more like an 'agglutinating' Uropi than like Volapük: ngi-zo-hamba = i-ve-ito (I-will-go) ≠ Vol. ogolob (which would be lit. zo-hamba-ngi in Zulu = will-go-I).
In the Past
Ekuseni ngihambe ngebhasi = Di morna i farì busim (this morning, I went by bus).   


We could still go on and on with this comparison, but I think this is enough; the difference between the two languages is perfectly clear : Volapük is an agglutinating language with deformed natural roots and a priori grammatical forms, whereas Uropi is rather an analytical slightly inflected language, with natural roots, a few blend words and natural grammatical forms. But above all, Uropi is a common international language whose vocabulary is based on the common Indo-European roots : its words are not picked up at random, essentially from the English vocabulary, as in Volapük: böd, vol, valik, nuf…; most of its words already exist in a lot of languages, or are similar to existing words, and are thus more easily understood by a lot of people.

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Vol: kipedöp = u vendia