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Flag of Novial.svg
Created byOtto Jespersen
Setting and usageinternational auxiliary language
SourcesRomance and Germanic languages; also Interlingue and Ido
Language codes
ISO 639-3nov

Novial (nov- ("new") + IAL, International Auxiliary Language) is a constructed international auxiliary language (IAL) for universal communication between speakers of different native languages. It was devised by Otto Jespersen, a Danish linguist who had been involved in the Ido movement, and later in the development of Interlingua.

Its vocabulary is based largely on the Germanic and Romance languages and its grammar is influenced by English.

Novial was introduced in Jespersen's book An International Language in 1928.[2] It was updated in his dictionary Novial Lexike in 1930,[3] and further modifications were proposed in the 1930s, but the language became dormant with Jespersen's death in 1943.[4] In the 1990s, with the revival of interest in constructed languages brought on by the Internet, some people rediscovered Novial.[4]

An International Language[edit]

Novial was first described in Jespersen’s book An International Language (1928). Part One of the book discusses the need for an IAL, the disadvantages of ethnic languages for that purpose, and common objections to constructed IALs. He also provides a critical overview of the history of constructed IALs with sections devoted to Volapük, Esperanto, Idiom Neutral, Ido, Latino sine flexione, and Interlingue. The author makes it clear that he draws on a wealth of earlier work on the problem of a constructed IAL, not only the aforementioned IALs.

Part Two of An International Language describes Novial in detail. Alternative possible solutions for problems in the phonology, orthography, grammar and vocabulary are considered. The choices made are explained by comparison with ethnic languages and previously constructed IALs.

Alphabet and pronunciation[edit]

Novial alphabet
Upper case A B CH D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S SH T U V X Y
Lower case a b ch d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s sh t u v x y
IPA phonemes a b ʃ, tʃ d e f g h i ʒ, dʒ k l m n o p k r s ʃ, tʃ t u v ks, gz j, ʝ
  • The letter S occurring among vowels may sound /z/.
  • The letter J may be pronounced /dʒ/.
  • The digraph CH may be pronounced /ʃ/.

Jespersen suggested that it might be possible instead of the digraphs CH and SH to use the phonetic symbol /ʃ/.[2]


Personal pronouns, subject and object[edit]

Person English (Nominative) English (Oblique) Novial
1st Singular I Me Me
2nd Singular You You Vu
3rd Singular (Male) He Him Lo
3rd Singular (Female) She Her La
3rd (Common) N/A (He/She/They) N/A (Him/Her/Them) Le
3rd Singular (Neuter) It It Lu
Impersonal One/They/You One/Them/You On
1st Plural We Us Nus
2nd Plural You You Vus
3rd Plural (Male) They Them Los
3rd Plural (Female) They Them Las
3rd Plural (Common) They Them Les
3rd Plural (Neuter) They Them Lus

In Novial, nominative and oblique pronouns are identical.

The standard word order is subject-verb-object, as in English. Therefore, the object need not be marked to distinguish it from the subject: E.g.:

  • me observa vu – "I observe you"
  • vu observa me – "you observe me"

The accusative (direct object) is therefore most often identical to the nominative (subject). However, in case of an ambiguity problem, an optional accusative ending, -m (-em after a consonant), is available but is rarely used. The preposition em is equivalent to this ending.

The personal possessive adjectives are formed from the pronouns by adding -n or after a consonant -en. This is in fact the genitive (possessive) of the pronoun so men means both "my" and "mine" ("of me"): E.g.:

  • "My dog" = Men Hunde
  • "The dog is mine" = Li Hunde es men

Possession may also be expressed with the preposition de: de me, de vu, and so on.

Person English (Nominative) English (Possessive) Novial
1st Singular My Mine Men
2nd Singular Your Yours Vun
3rd Singular (Male) His His Lon
3rd Singular (Female) Her Hers Lan
3rd Singular (Common) N/A (His/Her/Their) N/A (His/Hers/Theirs) Len
3rd Singular (Neuter) Its Its Lun
Impersonal One's/Their/Your One's/Theirs/Yours Onen
1st Plural Our Ours Nusen
2nd Plural Your Yours Vusen
3rd Plural (Male) Their Theirs Losen
3rd Plural (Female) Their Theirs Lasen
3rd Plural (Common) Their Theirs Lesen
3rd Plural (Neuter) Their Theirs Lusen


Verb forms never change with person or number. Most verb tenses, moods and voices are expressed with auxiliary verbs preceding the root form of the main verb. The auxiliaries follow the same word order as the English equivalent. The pronouns are indicated with parentheses and are given for example purposes.

Grammar English Novial
Infinitive to protect protekte
Present (I) protect (me) protekte
Present Perfect (I) have protected (me) ha protekte
Simple Past (I) protected (me) did protekte or (me) protekted
Past Perfect (I) had protected (me) had protekte
Future (I) shall protect or (I) will protect (me) sal protekte or (me) ve protekte
Future Perfect (I) shall have protected or (I) will have protected (me) sal ha protekte or (me) ve ha protekte
Future In The Past (I) was going to protect (me) saled protekte
Conditional (I) would protect (me) vud protekte
Conditional Perfect (I) would have protected (me) vud ha protekte
First Imperative Let (me) protect! Let (me) protekte!
Second Imperative protect! protekte!
  • Present active participle: protektent – "protecting"
  • Past passive participle: protektet – "protected"

Novial clearly distinguishes the passive of becoming and the passive of being. In English the forms are often the same, using the auxiliary verb to be followed by the past participle. However, the passive of becoming is also often expressed with the verb to get which is used in the examples below.

The passive voice of becoming is formed with the auxiliary bli followed by the root verb form.

Grammar English Novial
Infinitive to get protected bli protekte
Present (I) get protected (me) bli protekte
Present Perfect (I) have got protected (me) ha bli protekte
Simple Past (I) got protected (me) blid protekte
Past Perfect (I) had got protected (me) had bli protekte
Future (I) shall get protected or (I) will get protected (me) sal bli protekte or (me) ve bli protekte
Future Perfect (I) shall have got protected or (I) will have got protected (me) sal ha bli protekte or (me) ve ha bli protekte
Future In The Past (I) was going to get protected (me) saled bli protekte
Conditional (I) would get protected (me) vud bli protekte
Conditional Perfect (I) would have got protected (me) vud ha bli protekte
First Imperative Let (me) get protected! Let (me) bli protekte!
Second Imperative get protected! bli protekte!

The passive voice of being is formed with the auxiliary es followed by the past passive participle (stem + -t).

Grammar English Novial
Infinitive to be protected es protektet
Present (I) am protected (me) es protektet
Present Perfect (I) have been protected (me) ha es protektet
Simple Past (I) was protected (me) did es protektet or (me) esed protektet
Past Perfect (I) had been protected (me) had es protektet
Future (I) shall be protected or (I) will be protected (me) sal es protektet or (me) ve es protektet
Future Perfect (I) shall have been protected or (I) will have been protected (me) sal ha es protektet or (me) ve ha es protektet
Future In The Past (I) was going to be protected (me) saled es protektet
Conditional (I) would be protected (me) vud es protektet
Conditional Perfect (I) would have been protected (me) vud ha es protektet
First Imperative Let (me) be protected! Let (me) es protektet!
Second Imperative be protected! es protektet!


The definite article is li which is invariant. It is used as in English.

There is no indefinite article, although un (one) can be used.


The plural noun is formed by adding –s to the singular (-es after a consonant).

The accusative case is generally identical to the nominative but can optionally be marked with the ending -m (-em after a consonant) with the plural being -sem (-esem after a consonant) or with the preposition em.

The genitive is formed with the ending -n (-en after a consonant) with the plural being -sen (-esen after a consonant) or with the preposition de.

Other cases are formed with prepositions.


All adjectives end in -i, but this may be dropped if it is easy enough to pronounce and no confusion will be caused. Adjectives precede the noun qualified. Adjectives do not agree with the noun but may be given noun endings if there is no noun present to receive them.

Comparative adjectives are formed by placing various particles (plu, tam, and min) in front of the adjective receiving the comparison. Likewise, the superlative particles (maxim and minim) precede the adjective. The adjective does not receive an inflection to its ending.


An adjective is converted to a corresponding adverb by adding -m after the -i ending of the adjective.

Comparative and superlative adverbs are formed in the same manner as comparative and superlative adjectives: by placing a specific particle before the adverb receiving the comparison.



See the Table of Prefixes and Table of Suffixes at the Novial Wikibook.

Novial compared to Esperanto and Ido[edit]

Jespersen was a professional linguist, unlike Esperanto's creator.[neutrality is disputed] He disliked the arbitrary and artificial character that he found in Esperanto and Ido.[citation needed] Additionally, he objected to those languages' inflectional systems, which he found needlessly complex. He sought to make Novial at once euphonious and regular while also preserving useful structures from natural languages.

In Novial:

  • Syntax is largely a matter of word order, as in English and modern Scandinavian languages. There is no obligatory accusative marker as in Esperanto, but the accusative may optionally be marked with either an accusative ending or an accusative preposition.
  • A genitive or possessive case is available as an alternative to the preposition de. This is based on Jespersen's observation that many modern languages have lost complex noun inflections, yet retain a possessive form.
  • Auxiliary particles express most verb tenses. An inflectional ending is available as a shorthand for the simple past tense.

A major difference between Novial and Esperanto/Ido concerns noun endings. Jespersen rejected a single vowel to terminate all nouns (-o in Esperanto/Ido), finding it unnatural and potentially confusing. [5] Instead, Novial nouns may end in -o, -a, -e, or -u or -um. These endings may be taken to indicate natural sex according to the custom in Romance languages. Also there is no grammatical gender or requirement for adjectives to agree with nouns.

Language sample for comparison[edit]

Here is the Lord's Prayer in Novial and several related languages:

Novial version: Esperanto version: Ido version: Latin version:

Nusen Patre, kel es in siele,
mey vun nome bli sanktifika,
mey vun regno veni;
mey on fa vun volio
kom in siele anke sur tere.
Dona a nus disdi li omnidiali pane,
e pardona a nus nusen ofensos,
kom anke nus pardona a nusen ofensantes,
e non dukte nus en tentatione,
ma liberisa nus fro malu.

Patro nia, kiu estas en la ĉielo,
Via nomo estu sanktigita.
Venu Via regno,
plenumiĝu Via volo,
kiel en la ĉielo, tiel ankaŭ sur la tero.
Nian panon ĉiutagan donu al ni hodiaŭ.
Kaj pardonu al ni niajn ŝuldojn,
kiel ankaŭ ni pardonas al niaj ŝuldantoj.
Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton,
sed liberigu nin de la malbono.

Patro nia, qua esas en la cielo,
tua nomo santigesez;
tua regno advenez;
tua volo facesez
quale en la cielo tale anke sur la tero.
Donez a ni cadie l'omnidiala pano,
e pardonez a ni nia ofensi,
quale anke ni pardonas a nia ofensanti,
e ne duktez ni aden la tento,
ma liberigez ni del malajo.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;
adveniat Regnum Tuum;
fiat voluntas Tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a Malo.


As Jespersen relates in his autobiography, in 1934 he proposed an orthographic reform to Novial, which displeased a part of the users. Jespersen abandoned the essential principle of one sound, one letter :[6]

I proposed some not inconsiderable amendments, especially by introducing an "orthographic" Novial alongside the original phonetically written language. (...) Thus the sound [k], besides being represented by the letters k and q and the first part of x, also acquired the new sign c (before a, o, u and consonants), a practice with which nearly all Europeans, Americans, and Australians are familiar from childhood. (...) I know that this orthographic form has displeased several of Novial's old and faithful friends, but it is my impression that many others have applauded it.

— Otto Jespersen (1995 [1938], pp. 227–8)

Some of Jespersen's colleagues among philologists jokingly referred to Novial as Jesperanto, combining his surname with Esperanto, the prototypical auxiliary language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Novial". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Jespersen, Otto (1928). An international language. London: Allen & Unwin. LC no 29000603.
  3. ^ Jespersen, Otto (1930). Novial lexike, international dictionary, dictionnaire international, internationales Wörterbuch. London: G. Allen & Unwin. LC no 31014004.
  4. ^ a b Ager, Simon. Novial (Nov International Auxiliari Lingue). Retrieved from on the 20th Dec. 2011
  5. ^ "The Project Gutenberg EBook of International Language and Science".
  6. ^ Jespersen, Otto (1995 [1938]). A linguist’s life: an English translation of Otto Jerpersen’s autobiography [En Sprogmands Levned] with notes, photos and a bibliography. Edited by Arne Juul, Hans F. Nielsen, Jørgen Erik Nielsen. Odense: Odense University Press. ISBN 87-7838-132-0.

External links[edit]