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Solfège: Sol-Re-Sol
Created byFrançois Sudre
Solresol script; Solfège; Musical notation; Color spectrum
Signed staff notation; Tonic sol-fa signs by John Curwen
Sourcesa priori
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Solresol (Solfège: Sol-Re-Sol), originally called Langue universelle and then Langue musicale universelle, is a constructed language devised by François Sudre, beginning in 1827. His major book on it, Langue Musicale Universelle, was published after his death in 1866,[1] though he had already been publicizing it for some years. Solresol enjoyed a brief spell of popularity, reaching its pinnacle with Boleslas Gajewski's 1902 publication of Grammaire du Solresol. An ISO 639-3 language code had been requested on 28 July 2017,[2] but was rejected on 1 February 2018.[3]

Today, there exist small communities of Solresol enthusiasts scattered across the world.[4]

Sudre or Gajewski[edit]

There are multiple versions of Solresol, and they each have minor differences. Currently, there are three small variations on the language, each of which mostly edit vocabulary and a small amount of the grammar.

Sudre created the language, and thus his version deserves the title of being the original version of Solresol.

Vincent Gajewski popularised the language as the president of the Central committee for the study and advancement of Solresol, founded by Madame Sudre. Boleslas Gajewski, the son of Vincent, published the Grammar of Solresol.[5] This is the most publicised version of Solresol, thanks to the translation to English by Stephen L. Rice from 1997,[5][6] with a chunk of the vocabulary changed from the original, as well as some of the grammar. One example is the word fasol, defined as "here" in Sudre's dictionary, but "why?" in Gajewski's.

The third is an unofficial version developed over time by the community, dubbed "Modern Solresol". It uses Sudre's version as a base, with tweaks to the grammar and vocabulary, such as changing the definitions of sisol and sila from meaning "Sir" and "Young man", to an honourifics system inspired by what is used in Japanese; both are gender-neutral titles, one to be respectful, and one to be affectionate.[7]

Gajewski's publication brought various additions that don't conflict with the original version of the language, such as various new methods of communication, including: a set of symbols, using the seven colours of the rainbow, using Tonic sol-fa to sign the language, and more.[5]:16


The seven conventional notes, colors, syllables, numerals, and glyphs used to convey solresol phonemes.

Solresol can be communicated by using any seven distinct items, with a maximum of five per word. The main method of communication is by using the seven solfège syllables (a form of solmization), which may be accented, lengthened or repeated. The simplest way to use these syllables is to speak them as if they were regular syllables.

Due to predating the IPA, there are no specific pronunciation rules beyond the standard readings of the solfège. Due to each syllable being fairly distinct, they may be pronounced in almost any way the reader prefers. Although the seventh note is more modernly pronounced as "Ti" in a lot of countries,[8][circular reference] "Si" is still generally preferred within the Solresol community.

Sudre outlined a way of transcribing the phonetics of French (and thus many other languages) into Solresol, primarily used for proper nouns.[1]:32 Using common pronunciations as given by the likes of Wiktionary, it is possible to reconstruct a table of sounds using the modern IPA.

Due to having few syllables, it is necessary to leave a brief pause between words so that each word remains clearly separate. As noted by Boleslas Gajewski: "one should take great care to pause after every word; this slight pause is necessary to separate the words, so that the listener does not become confused".[6]:Reversed meanings


In Solresol morphology, each word is divided into categories of either meaning or function, where longer words are generally more specific. Words are differentiated by three main characteristics: the initial syllable, word length, and whether it has a pair of repeated syllables.

Words of syllable length 1 and 2 are used for pronouns and common particles, and those with repeated syllables are tenses.

Words of syllable length 3 are devoted to words used frequently (at the time of Solresol's creation).

Words of syllable length 4 fall into various themed categories. For example, words beginning with 'sol', which include no repeating syllables, have meanings related to arts or sciences (e.g. soldoredo, "art"; solmiredo, "acoustic").[1]:22.V However, if they have a pair of repeated syllables, their meanings relate to sickness or medicine (e.g. solsolredo, "migraine"; solreresol, "smallpox").[1]:23.VI

By default, all animate nouns and pronouns imply that they are of male sex. To differentiate the female sex, you add a bar, hyphen or macron to the final syllable of the corresponding article or the word itself. In speech, this is indicated by repeating the vowel of the syllable, with a glottal stop separating the repeated vowel from the rest of the word.[1]:24

However, in modern translations, pronouns do not change depending on gender. Instead, they are simply translated into English as neutral pronouns; it and they.

A unique feature of Solresol is that meanings can be inverted by reversing the syllables in words. For instance fala means good or tasty, and lafa means bad. Interruptions in the logical order of words in each category are usually caused by these reversible words.[1]:31.XXI However, not all words are reversible in this sense, such as dorefare meaning neck, and refaredo meaning wardrobe, which are obviously not opposites.

The following table shows the words of up to two syllables from Gajewski's dictionary:

First (below) and second (right) syllables No second syllable -do -re -mi -fa -sol -la -si/-ti
Do- no, not, neither, nor (past) I, me you [sg] he self, oneself one, someone other
Re- and, as well as my, mine (pluperfect) your, yours [sg] his our, ours your, yours [pl] their
Mi- or, or even for, in order to/that who, which (rel pron), that (conj) (future) whose, of which well (adv) here/there is, behold good evening/night
Fa- to what? with, jointly this, that (conditional) why, for what reason good, tasty, delectable much, very, extremely
Sol- if but in, within wrong, ill (adv) because (imperative) perpetually, always, without end, without ceasing thank, thanks
La- the nothing, no one, nobody by here, there bad never, at no time (present participle) of
Si-/Ti- yes, okay, gladly, agreed the same (thing) each, every good morning/afternoon little, scarcely mister, sir young man, bachelor (passive participle)


Apart from stress and length, Solresol words are not inflected. To keep sentences clear, especially with the possibility of information loss while communicating, certain parts of speech follow a strict word order.

Adjectives always follow the noun they modify.
Indirect objects always come after the verb.[1]:26.XII
Examples given throughout the original documentation hint at a SVO word order,[1]:29.XVII however, it shouldn't matter as long as the sentence remains simple and clear.
Tenses always precede verbs.[1]:30.XIX

To make a word plural, you place an acute accent above the last syllable, which in speech is pronounced by lengthening the last letter of said syllable.[1]:24.IX Examples of how to mark plural masculine and feminine words:

resimire brother, resimirē/resimire-e sister
resimiré brothers, resimiréē/resimiré-e sisters

This only affects the first word in a noun phrase. That is, it only affects a noun when the noun is alone, as above. If the word is accompanied by a grammatical particle (la, fa or lasi), the particle will take the gender and or number marking instead:

la resimire [the] brother, lā/la-a resimire [the] sister
lá resimire [the] brothers, láā/lá-a resimire [the] sisters

Parts of speech (as well as more specific definitions for certain words) are derived from verbs by placing a circumflex above one of the syllables in writing, and by pronouncing said syllable with rinforzando (sudden emphasis or crescendo). With the accent placed on the first syllable, the word becomes a noun. In four-syllable words, accentuating the second syllable creates an agent noun. The penultimate syllable produces an adjective, and the last creates an adverb.[1]:25.XI For example,

midofa to prefer, mîdofa preference, midôfa preferable, midofâ preferably
resolmila to continue, rêsolmila continuation, resôlmila one who continues, resolmîla continual, resolmilâ continually

On computers using keyboard layouts without the circumflex accent, you can either print the syllable using capital letters, or place a caret between letters of a syllable or after a syllable. Due to the grammar and word order of Solresol, distinguishing parts of speech aren't usually required to understand the sentence.

The various tense-and-mood particles are the double syllables, as given in vocabulary above. In addition, according to Gajewski, passive verbs are formed with faremi between this particle and the verb. The subjunctive is formed with mire before the pronoun. The negative do only appears once in the clause, before the word it negates.

The word fasi before a noun or adjective is augmentative; after it is superlative. Sifa is the opposite (diminutive):[1]:21.III

fala good, fasi fala very good, fala fasi excellent, the best; sifa fala okay, fala sifa not very good (and similarly with lafa bad)
sisire wind, fasi sisire gale, sisire fasi cyclone; sifa sisire breeze, sisire sifa movement of air


Questions in Solresol are one of the most confusing parts of the language, as they are not given much attention in the original documentation, nor have many examples. However, if they are kept simple and concise, it shouldn't be too difficult to form questions in Solresol.

Sudre's publication includes three examples of interrogative sentences:[1]:127

Is your health good? - Redofafa?
Will you go to the countryside this year? - Fadoremi?
Will you go to the theatre tonight? - Soldoremi?

To make this an affirmative statement, you add the personal pronoun afterwards:

My health is good. - Redofafa dore.
I will go to the countryside this year. - Fadoremi dore.
I will go to the theatre tonight. - Soldoremi dore.

Gajewski ignores this, and uses a common European method of forming questions; by placing the subject of the sentence after the verb instead of before the verb. Some examples are:[6]:Interrogation and Negation

Am I? - Faremi dore?
Does he understand? - Falafa dofa?
Are you learning? - Sidosi domi?

As you can see, without indicating which method you are using, it may be confusing to understand whether someone is asking a question, or stating an answer to one.

In all versions of the language, there are words in the 4-syllable, repeated "Mi" section of the dictionary which includes some common questions, such as:[1]:109.123

Miladodo? - To what extent/degree?
Milarere? - Well?
Misirere? - Who is it?

Methods of communication[edit]


Each "note" of Solresol is represented as a symbol, for example, "Do" is a circle, "Re" is a vertical line, "Mi" and "La" are both half-circles, the former facing downwards, the latter facing right, "Fa" is a diagonal line from left-top to right-bottom, "Sol" is a horizontal line, and "Si or Ti" is a diagonal line from left-bottom to right-top.

The symbols of Solresol.

Words of Solresol are formed by connecting the symbols in the order they appear in the word.

Some basic words of Solresol.

Further attributes[edit]

Depiction of John Curwen's Solfege hand signs used in Tonic sol-fa. This version includes the tonal tendencies and interesting titles for each tone.
  • impartial and relatively simple
  • integrated systems (signs, colors, etc.) for most different handicapped people, immediately operative without special learning
  • gives fast learning success to illiterate people (only seven syllables or signs or ten letters to know and to recognize)
  • very simple but effective system to differentiate the function of the words in the sentences

Using the Tonic sol-fa system by John Curwen, SolReSol can also be signed.

Further developments[edit]

Another way of using Solresol is called ses, and was developed by George Boeree.[citation needed] The notes are given a representative consonant and vowel (or diphthong). The most basic words use the vowel alone; all others begin with a consonant followed by a vowel (or diphthong), etc.

  • do > p / o
  • re > k / e
  • mi > m / i
  • fa > f / a
  • sol > s / u
  • la > l / au
  • ti > t / ai

In this way, one can write or pronounce words such as these:

  • do > o (v) - no
  • re > e (v) - and
  • fa-la > fau (cv) - good
  • la-fa > la (cv) - bad
  • mi-ti-sol-do > maiso (cvcv) - experience
  • sol-sol-re-do > suko (cvcv) - migraine
  • do-la-fa-sol > paufu (cvcv) - soup
  • sol-re-sol > ses (cvc) - language (solresol)
  • etc.

Because the plural and feminine forms of words in Solresol are indicated by stress or length of sounds, ses uses pau (some) or fai (many) to indicate the plural, and mu (well) to indicate the feminine when necessary.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Scanned copy of F. Sudre's original 'Langue Musicale Universelle' publication" (PDF).
  2. ^ "The Road to ISO 639-3 - Sidosi". Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Beyond ISO 639-3 (for now) - Sidosi". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c "Grammar of Solresol PDF" (PDF). Sidosi. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Prof. Boleslas Gajewski, translated by Stephen L. Rice. "Grammar of Solresol". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Modern Solresol Dictionary". Google Sheets. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Wikipedia article on Solfege".

External links[edit]