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Pandunia - the evenly global helping language


Pandunia is an equally global helping language. In this article we tell what makes Pandunia global and equal, why it is like that, and how it could help people of the world to communicate better with each other.

Principles of Pandunia

Pandunia is fair. Everybody has an equal chance of learning and speaking Pandunia well. It is supposed to be the great equalizer — a way of communicating that everybody can use on the same level.

Pandunia is evenly global. It borrows words from from all regions and all cultures of the world. It is the world language that stands for the whole world!

Pandunia is practical. It re-uses things that have already become international, including the basic Latin alphabet and international words from English, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Chinese and Arabic, among others. That way Pandunia can be used in real international communication right from the start.

Pandunia is simple. In international situations it is best to use plain words, short sentences and simple language because they are much more effective than specialized words, long sentences and complex language. So, let's keep it simple!

How is Pandunia evenly global?

Many people are used to seeing the kind of world map below. It is the famous Mercator projection map. Unfortunately it distorts the land area terribly.

Why is that? The world is a three-dimensional globe and turning it into a flat, two-dimensional map is not easy. Equal-area projections, such as the Equal Earth projection below, show land areas correctly. Compare the sizes of Greenland and Africa in these two maps. In the Mercator projection Greenland appears bigger, but the Equal Earth projection shows correctly that in reality Africa is 14 times bigger than Greenland.

That is the physical world. We live also in a human world, which comprises of nations that are divided by borders. In a normal map of countries of the world, sizes of the countries are defined by their geographic area.

However the map projection below is based on the population of countries, not on their geographic area.

In our opinion the world language should represent the human world. Every part of the world, every culture, should be treated fairly and democratically. The grammar should be easy for all. Areal linguistic characteristics, such as Standard Average European, are not suitable guidelines for the world language. Instead, the grammar should be built from things that are universally known and/or universally considered easy.

Words are selected to Pandunia mostly from 20 main source languages. The six official languages of the United Nations are included: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese. The language of the heart of Europe is included: German. The language of the South Atlantic is included: Portuguese. The most important East Asian languages are included: Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Malay. The most influential languages of the Indian subcontinent are included: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Tamil. The most widely spoken native African languages after Arabic are included: Swahili and Hausa. The other major languages of Middle East besides Arabic are included: Turkish and Persian.

All in all, they represent a good mix of cultures and regions of the world.

Only two languages have more than one billion speakers each: Mandarin and English. Mandarin is by far the largest language by number of native speakers, while English is the language with the greatest number of second language speakers.

In the following chapters we will use these two dissimilar languages as the points of comparison when we present some of the key features of Pandunia as a language. This approach is not meant to belittle the importance of the other languages but it would be impractical to compare Pandunia to all twenty source languages at once in a short and non-exhaustive presentation like this.

Spelling and pronunciation

The most widely used alphabet

There are many writing systems in the world today but only a handful of them are international. The most popular writing systems are the Roman alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, the Arabic script and the Chinese pictographic symbols.

Only the Roman alphabet has become truly global. Most languages of Europe, the Americas and Africa are written in the Roman alphabet. Also several notable languages in Asia, including Turkish, Malay and Vietnamese, are written in the Roman alphabet.

Therefore the Roman alphabet is the obvious choice for the international language.

Only five vowels

According to chapter 2 of The World Atlas of Language Structures, the vowel inventories in world's languages are categorized by size as follows:

  • small: 2-4 vowels
  • average: 5-6 vowels
  • large: 7-14 vowels

Pandunia has only five pure vowels: a, e, i, o, u. The number is approximately the same as the global average. In this respect, Pandunia is close to languages like Spanish and Japanese as both have a system of five vowels.

Examples of large vowel inventories include English (12 vowels) and Mandarin (9 vowels).

Common consonants

According to chapter 1 of The World Atlas of Language Structures, the consonant inventories in world's languages are categorized by size as follows:

  • small: 6-14 consonants
  • moderately small: 15-18
  • average: 19-25
  • moderately large: 26-33
  • large: 34 or more consonants

Pandunia has only 20 consonants so its consonant inventory is average in size.

English and Mandarin, for example, have much bigger consonant inventories. Most consonant letters are pronounced in the same way in all three languages. The table below shows what consonant sounds correspond to each other in Pandunia, English and Mandarin. Sounds that are present in English or Mandarin but not in Pandunia are inside parenthesis.

Pandunia English Mandarin
Nasals m n (ng) m n (ng) m n (ng)
Stops p b t d k g p b t d k g p b t d k g
Liquids l r j v l r y w l r y w (yü)
Sibilants s z x s z sh (zh) s z* x (sh)
Fricatives f h f h (v th th) f h
Affricates c j ch j c j (ch zh q)

Easy syllable structure

A syllable consists of one core vowel and possible consonants. In some languages syllables are simpler than in others. For example in Japanese the heaviest syllables consist of an initial consonant, a vowel and a final nasal consonant. This is why Japanese sounds light and vocalic. In English, on the other hand, it is possible to cram many consonants in one syllable, as in "strict sprints".

Pandunia is somewhere in the middle. Most syllables are simple a-consonant-and-a-vowel pairs but also more complex syllables are allowed, especially in internationally known technical terms. For example kristal (crystal) is a complex word by Pandunia standards.

There are two ways to simplify words that are too complex for the international language:

  1. Select a simpler variant of the same word from another language. For example, the English word project ends in two consonants but the same word in Portuguese is projeto.
  2. Break the consonant clusters by adding vowels. For example, the English word sport is too complex but the same word in Portuguese is esporte, which breaks the difficult consonant clusters in the beginning and end by additional vowels.

Regular spelling

English spelling is notoriously irregular. Pīnyīn was created more recently, in the 1950s, but unfortunately it also has some irregularities, simply because there are more sounds in spoken Chinese than there are letters in the Roman alphabet. Still, in comparison to English, Pinyin is very regular. For example the English rhymes my, sigh, lie, and rye would be written in Pīnyīn mai, sai, lai, rai. It is as simple as that!

Pandunia can be spelled regularly because it has fewer speech sounds (24) than there are letters in the Basic Latin alphabet (26). The alphabet of Pandunia is:
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z

Pandunia has almost perfect letter-to-sound correspondence. One letter stands for one sound only. One sound is represented by exactly one letter. Every word is pronounced as it is written.

Regular accent

Pandunia has a regular accent. The place of the stress is decided by one simple rule: the last vowel of the word stem is stressed. It goes like this:
hálo! mí vól lóga la bón dúnia báxa.
(Hello! I want to speak the good world language.)

Regular stress is easier to learn and more comfortable to use than irregular and unpredictable stress. English is an example of a language with irregular stress. In a written expression like "totally fantastic personnel", nothing shows that each word has the stress on a different syllable. If the stress was marked on the vowels, it might look something like this: "tótally fantástic personnél".

Pandunia doesn't have tones either. Chinese, on the other hand, is a tonal language. That's why texts in romanized Chinese are loaded with accent marks, as in wǒmen yě huì shuō zhōngguòhuá. They are there to mark tones. In Standard Chinese, each syllable is pronounced in one of the four tones or in the unmarked neutral tone.

Tones are hard to learn for people who are not used to them. Variable stress is hard to learn for people who are used to fixed stress. Neither word tone nor variable word stress are necessary in the world language.

The simplest structure

Languages can be categorized by two parameters:

  • Is a single word made of few or many parts?
  • Are those parts easy to separate or fused together?

The widely spoken languages can be categorized into four types according to these parameters.

  1. Analytic languages – Words are made of few, distinct parts.
    • Mandarin Chinese
  2. Analytic fusional languages – Words are made of few, fused parts.
    • English
  3. Agglutinative languages – Words are made of many, distinct parts.
    • Japanese, Malay, Tamil, Swahili
  4. Synthetic fusional languages – Words are made of many, fused parts.
    • Spanish, Portuguese, French
    • German, Russian
    • Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi
    • Arabic, Hausa

Usually languages are a mixture of different types. For example, in English the plural can be formed in several different ways. Many a cat is an analytic phrase that consists of three separate words. Cats is an agglutinative word that consists of two distincts parts, cat and -s. Leaves is a fused word that consists of two parts, leaf and -s.

Pandunia is an analytic language. Its words consist of few parts and they are clearly separable. This is a good thing because it makes the language easy to learn and use in comparison to languages where words are longer or fused of many parts.

Parts of word

The word is made of a root and optional affixes, which are attached to the root word. Prefixing languages put affixes before the root and suffixing languages put affixes after the root. Some languages put affixes on both sides or even inside the root. Usually languages use several different ways. For example English uses both prefixes (ex. un-kind) and suffixes (ex. kind-ly).

Suffixing languages are the most common type. Indo-European languages, Telugu, Chinese and Japanese are mostly suffixing.

Chinese has no inflection. Words are only combined into larger words. Some words have a special meaning when they appear as a part of a larger word. These so called bound morphemes are much like suffixes.

English, Spanish and Hindi-Urdu use mainly root and affix system. The meaning is changed by adding dependent parts before and after the root. For example "booklets" consists of root book and affixes -let (which adds meaning of smallness) and -s (which adds plural meaning). Most affixes can't stand alone, they always need to be fixed to a root.

Arabic uses transfixes. The root consists of (usually three) consonants and it is changed by inserting a pattern of vowels between them. Arabic also has many prefixes and suffixes for creating additional words.

Pandunia uses the simple root-and-affix system. Its words can consist of many, distinct parts that are easy to separate. Everybody can create new words easily.

Word orders

Different word orders are used in the languages of the world. Some of the most important areas of word order are:

  • Sentence structure. Order of subject (S), verb (V) and object (O) in a transitive clause. The most common sentence structures are subject–verb–object (SVO) and subject–object–verb (SOV).
  • Order of numeral and noun. Cardinal numeral can be either before (NumN) or after (NNum) the noun.
  • Order of adjective and noun. There are two possible orders
    1. Adjective is before the noun (AdjN)
    2. Adjective is after the noun (NAdj)
  • Order of adposition and noun.
    1. Prepositions are before the noun.
    2. Postpositions are after the noun.
  • Order of relative clause and noun. The relative clause can be either before (RelN) or after (NRel) the noun.

The table below shows what are the typical, unmarked word orders in important world languages.

Language Sentence Numeral Adjective Relative Adposition
English SVO NumN AdjN NRel pre
Chinese SVO NumN AdjN RelN post
Spanish SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Hindi-Urdu SOV NumN AdjN RelN post
Arabic VSO both NAdj NRel pre
Russian SVO NumN AdjN NRel pre
French SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Indonesian SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Japanese SOV NumN AdjN RelN post
Swahili SVO NNum NAdj NRel pre

Also other word orders are possible. For example in English, which normally uses the SVO order in declarative sentences, the object can be fronted in interrogative and relative clauses, as in "What did you say?"

The previous table shows that the major languages don't agree about word orders. Pandunia supports several word orders but the default is to use the most common ones: subject–verb–object (SVO), numeral before the noun, adjective before the noun, relative clause after the noun and prepositions.

World words

Most Pandunia words are already international – at least in some part(s) of the world! The three key principles for selecting words for Pandunia are:

  • Equality : Words are be borrowed equally from different regions of the world. In practice it means that Pandunia borrows words from the languages of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
  • Prevalence : Widely spread words are favored. The more people know the word the better.
  • Simplicity : Word forms with easy pronunciation are prefered.

However, sometimes it's hard to find international. The most frequent and at the same time the most basic words, like me, you, one, two, be and do, are typically the oldest words in languages, and they tend to be unique to a language or a group of closely related languages.

Therefore it's almost impossible to find international words for the most basic ideas, that are in common to unrelated languages in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Still, we have tried.

The personal pronouns are among the most frequently occuring words.

The first-person pronoun often begins with m- even in unrelated languages, for example English me, French moi, Spanish me, Hindi main, Finnish minä, Igbo mụ, Kongo mu, Swahili mimi, and Zulu mina. In Pandunia it is mi (I, me).

The second-person pronoun tu comes from the Indo-European family of languages, including French tu, Spanish , Russian ty and Hindi . In Pandunia it is a neutral pronoun that can be used both in informal and formal situations.

The third-person pronoun in Pandunia is ya. It is inspired by many languages, including Malay ia, Hindi यह (yah), Swahili yeye and Nigerian Igbo ya. It has the remarkable benefit that it can refer to both males and females as well as lifeless objects. So it covers the English third-person pronouns he, she and it, all at once.

The plural and possessive pronouns follow the super simple patterns of Standard Chinese.

Add men to form the plural:

English Pandunia Chinese
I mi
you tu
he or she ya
we mimen wǒmen
you all tumen nǐmen
they yamen tāmen

Add su to form the possessive:

English Pandunia Chinese
my mi su wǒ de
your tu su nǐ de
his/her ya su tā de
our mimen su wǒmen de
your tumen su nǐmen de
their yamen su tāmen de

By a fortunate coincidence, the second person plural pronoun is identical to Romani (Gypsy) tumen and not far from Hindi-Urdu tum.

The personal pronouns in Pandunia attain three important goals.

  1. The basic pronouns (mi, tu, ye) look and sound distinct.
  2. The plural and possessive pronouns are built in a systematic way. They are not only a bunch of random words.
  3. The words are international and come from many different language families.

Easy sentences

In this section we will compare the sentence structures of Pandunia with English and Chinese, the two most widely spoken languages of the world.

The normal sentence word order is subject–verb–object – just like in English and Chinese.

English:   I love you, and you love me.
Pandunia:  mi ame tu, tu ame mi.
Chinese:   Wǒ ài nǐ, nǐ ài wǒ. (我爱你,你爱我。)

The auxiliary verb be is used when the object of the action comes first in the sentence. (This is the so called passive sentence.)

English:   Apples were eaten.
Pandunia:  aple be yam.
Chinese:   Píngguǒ bèi chī le. (苹果被吃了。)

be is a loan word from Standard Chinese bèi, but it is also close to some uses of English "to be".

English:   It can not be eaten.
Pandunia:  ya no bil be yam.
Chinese:   Tā bù néng bèi chī. (它不能被吃。)

Like Chinese, Pandunia doesn't mark verbs with a word like "to".

English:   I invite him to drink coffee.
Pandunia:  mi cing ya yam kafe.
Chinese:   Wǒ qǐng tā hē kāfēi. (我请他喝咖啡。)

In Pandunia and Chinese, nouns can be singular or plural depending on surrounding words. There's no plural ending like -s in English. Also verbs are not conjugated. One word, si, is used instead of am, is, are, was, were...

English:   It is an apple.
Pandunia:  ya si aple.
Chinese:   Tā shì píngguǒ. (他是苹果。)

English:   They are apples.
Pandunia:  yamen si aple.
Chinese:   Tāmen shì píngguǒ. (他们是苹果。)