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Frequently Asked Questions

General

How many people can speak Pandunia?

Currently speakers of Pandunia are counted in tens. It is still a very new language.

How can I help to spread Pandunia?

Learn Pandunia! Speak it with others! Talk about it with others! Write stories or articles, make videos, podcasts, music, etc.

You can also help with this website by translating content and correcting mistakes. Contents ("source code") of this website are stored in GitHub. You can also send your edited files by email to risto@pandunia.info

When was Pandunia created?

Creators of Pandunia began to create a language together first in 2005. Since the beginning the basic idea was to create an evenly global auxiliary language. Many different structures and ideas were tried over the years. The name Pandunia was invented already in 2007 but the language got its "final" form in 2021 – but of course languages evolve all the time!

What does the flag of Pandunia represent?

The flag of Pandunia represents global equality. There is a symbol of the blue planet against the background of the dark blue space. The equality sign is laid over the Earth.

Why the mascot of Pandunia is a duck-billed platypus?

Platypus (batakrote in Pandunia) is an egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal that lives in eastern Australia. It is an unusual creature. That's why the platypus is a fitting mascot for Pandunia, which is also an unusual mix, a mix of words and grammar from East and West, from North and South.

Pandunia doesn't fit into any of the traditional types of languages. Also in that regard it is similar to the platypus, which is of its own type.

Past, present and future

I want to change something in Pandunia. What should I do?

If your change is a small thing, you should try it in practice with other people and see how it works. If it really is a good change, other people will accept it and use it.

Creating offshoot languages is very common in the auxiliary language community. The case of Esperanto is famous. Offshoots of Esperanto are counted in the hundreds but most people haven't even heard of them. Esperanto is still the most popular language of its kind.

It is better to have one big language with several dialects than many competing languages.

Which languages have influenced the grammar of Pandunia?

Pandunia has been influenced by both natural and constructed languages.

  • Natural languages with isolating grammar were a useful model. For example the pivot structure comes directly from Chinese.
  • Works of earlier language makers were inspirational.
    • Esperanto, Ido, Novial etc. were closely examined.
    • Latino sine Flexione, Lingua Sistemfrater and Interglossa all have well thought-out isolating grammars.
  • Natural contact languages (so called pidgins and creoles) gave many ideas. It is an interesting observation that when speakers of different languages come into contact, they tend to create extremely simplified grammar to overcome the language barrier — no matter how complex languages they speak natively.

Who made Pandunia?

The starter of Pandunia is Risto Kupsala (born in Finland in 1979). He is a language hobbyist and an engineer in information technology who wants to help the world communicate better. People from many countries have helped over the years. There is a list of some of the contributors in GitHub.

Auxiliary language

What is a worldlang?

A worldlang is a constructed interlanguage that borrows its words, speech sounds and possibly grammar from different language families of the world. There are many worldlangs. Some of them are listed here.

How does Pandunia differ from other auxiliary languages?

  • The vocabulary of Pandunia is evenly global. It consists of Western (Greco-Latin) words, Perso-Arabic words, Chinese words and Indian words. Many other auxiliary languages use only or mostly Western words, which is not ideal for the world language in our opinion.
  • Internationality is the main criterion for selecting words to Pandunia. All the words of Pandunia are known by many nations in some part of the world.
  • The grammar of Pandunia is concise but very flexible. Pandunia has only a few grammatical structures, which are re-used over and over again.
  • Pandunia is a truly neutral language. It's not meant to imitate any languages, whereas for example Esperanto, Ido and Interlingua are intentionally similar to the European languages.

Did Esperanto contribute to the birth of Pandunia?

At first Esperanto was an important source of inspiration. However the influence of Esperanto to the final language is insignificant. Pandunia has very different structure and vocabulary compared to Esperanto.

Are the makers of Pandunia aware of the history of the IAL movement?

Yes. Here are some of the most important lessons to be learned from the history of the international auxiliary language (IAL) movement.

  • Over 99% of IALs do not survive in the long term.
  • Languages that are created without any pre-existing model (so called a priori languages) have very low chance of survival.
  • Languages that imitate and simplify one or more natural languages have some chance of survival.
  • Out of a group of many similar languages only one is likely to do well.
  • Success can be short-lived. (Remember Volapük and Ido.)
  • Rational reasons do not explain success. The "best" language doesn't necessarily win.
  • Large international organizations, such as the UN or the EU, pay very little attention to IALs. So it is up to grassroots movements to push an IAL to success.

Isn't it easier to just speak English instead?

English is indeed widely used – even up to a degree that some would like to call it the international language. Unfortunately, English is not very good at being an international language. It's not its own fault. It just happens to be the case that natural languages, including English, French, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin Chinese and most others, are the products of very long, natural, undirected language evolution. How things are said and written in these languages is more because of convention and tradition than because of beauty, logic, simplicity and practicality.

There is also the viewpoint of fairness. International communication should be fair, like a meeting where everybody get together half-way. That's not the situation with English. Native English speakers don't need to make any effort in learning the international language, while everybody else has to spend years learning English in school or on their own. Native English speakers are in a dominant position that they have gained just by their birth. That's not fair.

This is mostly a result of political history. Britain was once successful at invading and submitting other territories in the age of colonialism and it imposed the English language on other peoples. Although the power of Britain waned eventually, its military, economic and cultural dominance was continued by another English speaking power, the United States, until today.

Native English speakers always have an advantage over non-native speakers because they speak English fluently and they are aware of all the cultural nuances. Native English speakers speak English perfecty by definition, whereas non-native speakers speak it almost always with an accent – and it's their job to lose that accent! They also tend to make mistakes in grammar and they often select their words poorly because English vocabulary is huge, layered, and nuanced.

The table below summarizes the main points of difference between English (a natural language) and Pandunia (a constructed helping language).

English vs Pandunia
Western Global
Many standards (British, American, Indian, etc.) One standard
Very irregular spelling Regular spelling
Irregular stress Regular stress
12 vowels and 24 consonants 5 vowels and 19 consonants
Almost 200 irregular verbs
e.g. speak, spoke, spoken
Only regular verbs
Inflected verbs
e.g. talk, talks, talked
Unchanging verbs
Inflected nouns
e.g. one life, two lives
Unchanging nouns
Inflected adjectives
e.g. good, better, best
Unchanging adjectives
Huge vocabulary Concise vocabulary
Duplicate words from Germanic, Latinate and Greek roots Few duplicate words
Complex and irregular word formation Transparent and regular word building
Changing word order e.g. in questions One fixed word order

Should Pandunia replace English then?

Pandunia is not meant to replace English or any other languages. People have ability to speak several languages and they speak every language for a different reason. Some people speak one language at home, another at work and yet another on international travels. We can imagine a world where English and all other languages will continue to be spoken, and where Pandunia is spoken as the universal second language.

In a way, English will never be replaced. Those who speak it today will speak it tomorrow. But new generations will grow and they will choose which language(s) they want to speak with each other. So it will be another world with another world language. Maybe it will be English, or maybe a new kind of English or maybe something else. The landscape of languages changes in a natural process. Different languages were spoken in the past and different languages will be spoken in the future.

You are free to speak Pandunia, English and any other language that your heart desires.

Spelling and pronunciation

Is the spelling of Pandunia normal?

Pandunia assigns letters to sounds in an almost universal way. Most letters correspond to roughly the same in Pandunia and in other languages that use the Latin alphabet in their spelling or as their standard method of Romanization. For example, 19 letters correspond to the same sounds in Pandunia and English and only five are used differently. In addition, two English letters (w and q) are not used in Pandunia.

The pronunciation of Pandunia letters is compared to their pronunciation in other languages in the table below.

  • Letters that correspond to approximately similar sounds in Pandunia and the compared language are listed in the column "Similar". For example the English g is considered similar to the Pandunia g though in English there is the 'soft g' (as in gel) besides the more common 'hard g' (as in get).
  • Letters that correspond usually to different sounds in Pandunia and in the compared language are listed in the column "Different".
  • Pandunia letters that are not used in the compared language are listed in the column "Not used".
Language Similar Different Not used
Pandunia a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z
Indian Romaniz. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v y z x
Malay a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u y z v x
Hausa a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u y z v x
Chinese Pinyin a b c d f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u x y e z v
Swahili a b d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v y z c x
Japanese Romaji a b d e g h i j k l m n o p s t u y z f r v c x
Portuguese a b d e f g i k l m n o p r s t u v x z c h j y
English b d f g h i j k l m n o p r s t v y z a c e u x
French a b d e f g i k l m n o p s t u v y z c h j r x
Spanish a b d e f g i k l m n o p r s t u v y c h j x z
German a b d e f g h i k l m n o p r s t u v c j x y z
Vietnamese a b e g h i k l m n o p r t u v y c d s x f j z

In summary, most letters correspond to the same sounds in Pandunia as in other languages, and most differences are about letters c, j, x, y and z. Special attention needs to be given to c and x.

Why is the letter X pronounced like SH?

Pandunia follows the phonetic principle. One letter represents exactly one sound, and one sound is written with exactly one letter.

Traditionally there isn't any dedicated letter for the sound /ʃ/ in the Latin alphabet. This sound is frequently written by the letter combination sh in English. Other languages use different letters and letter combinations, such as ch in French, sch in German, sj in Swedish, sz in Polish, š in Czech and ş in Turkish.

However, there is a handful of languages that use the letter x for the sound /ʃ/. Basque and Maltese do it without exception. Portuguese and Catalan are less consistent, but their x stands for /ʃ/ frequently. For example, the Pandunia word xampu' is written almost exactly like in Portuguese. It means 'shampoo'.

There are also many words where the pronunciation of Latin x has evolved from /ks/ to /ʃ/ in the modern Latinate languages. For example, Latin relaxō has evolved into French relâcher /rəlaʃe/ and Portuguese relaxar /relaʃar/. Therefore Pandunia can have both the familiar spelling with x and the simplified pronunciation with /ʃ/ in international Latinate words like relaxe 'relax', proxime 'proximity', and maxim 'maximum'.

In the Chinese Romanization systen, Pīnyīn, the letter x stands for /ɕ/ which is almost similar to /ʃ/. Pandunia has borrowed many words with x from Chinese, for example xim, xin and xuxe.

Why is the letter C pronounced like CH?

Actually there are several languages where C is pronounced like English CH, including Malaysian, Indonesian, Hausa, Oromo and Rwanda. In Italian, when C is followed by E or I, it is pronounced /tʃ/. This pronunciation is present in English loan words from Italian, such as cello and cappuccino.

In addition, c is pronounced like ts in cats in many languages, including Polish, Czech, Hungarian and sometimes German. This pronunciation comes from Medieval Latin. The pronunciation of c is similar also in the standard Romanization of Mandarin Chinese.

On the other hand, the letter c doesn't stand for any unique sound in English. The hard c can be replaced by k and the soft c by s. So the letter c is free to be reassigned to some useful sound.

Vocabulary

Where Pandunia's words come from?

Pandunia's words come from all parts of the world. Go to the Pandunia lexi a dunia karte pages to see where every Pandunia word is from on a world map.

In our opinion the world language should be a mix of all languages in the world. That's why Pandunia has at least a few words in common with almost all languages of the world, because every language has borrowed at least some international words from the major languages from where Pandunia words are borrowed too.


Figure. Bar chart showing the percentage of words similar in the source languages and Pandunia.


Figure. Pie chart showing distribution of influence from the main source languages to Pandunia.

Why Pandunia doesn't take words from all languages?

About 6000-7000 languages are spoken in the world today. The figure below shows cumulative distribution of the number of speakers of the 50 most spoken native languages. The figure shows that:

  • 25 percent of all people speak the top-3 languages
  • 50 percent of all people speak the top-13 languages
  • 75 percent of all people speak the top-50 languages

The remaining languages – remember, there are over 6000 of them! – are outside the picture. The curve, which is steep at the beginning, turns virtually into a flat line when it approaches the last language, which is spoken only by a handful of people.

The figure indicates that beyond a certain point including one more language to the mix wouldn't make the interlanguage significantly more international. For example, if the top-50 languages were already included, adding the 51st language wouldn't make much of a difference, because it would increase the coverage from 75.07% to 75.43%.

One can also question the practical implications of including 51 languages versus 50. The increase in population coverage would be marginal, only 0.36%, and it would not help the remaining 24.24% of the world who speak other, smaller languages!


Figure. Percentage of world population by language by number of native speakers.

The vocabulary of Pandunia is based on the most spoken languages. They cover all continents and all major modern cultures of the world. They also have a lot of international words in common with less spoken languages. That's why Pandunia-like words can be found also in smaller languages.

Why the last vowel of words is sometimes different in Pandunia than in language X?

The main reason is that Pandunia borrows words from many languages, and often those languages don't agree about the final vowel. For example the word supe (soup) ends in -a in Spanish sopa, in -u in Japanese スープ (sūpu), in -e in German Suppe, and not in any vowel in English soup. So it's not one and the same word but rather an international family of similar words, and Pandunia's supe fits perfectly into that family.

Shouldn't "salam" mean "peace"?

In many languages, expressions of greeting have something to do with peace, health or well-being. The origins of Pandunia's word salam can be traced back to Semitic triliteral root SLM, which covers a variety of meanings including safety, security, peace and health. Likewise the English word salutation (and French greeting salut) can be traced back to Latin "salus", which means safety, security, health and well-being.

So the meaning of salam is greater than the meaning of peace. It means well-being in general and you can use it as a general expression for well-wishing in all kinds of situations, not just when you meet somebody. See the first lesson in the phrasebook for a lot of examples!

Grammar

How Pandunia compares to pidgins and creoles?

Pidgins and creoles are natural contact languages. Pandunia is a constructed contact language. So the answer is no, Pandunia is not a real pidgin or a creole. However, it is characterized by many of the same features as pidgins and creoles.

The following is a list of characteristic features of pidgins and creoles that apply for Pandunia too.

  1. Lack of grammatical complexity
  2. No definite or indefinite article
  3. Omission of the copula 'be'
  4. Tense, aspect, modality and negation are not part of the verb.
  5. Passive structures are not used.
  6. Lack of morphological complexity
  7. Nouns and pronouns are not inflected
  8. Verbs are not inflected and tense is marked by separate words
  9. Semantic transparency
  10. Meaning of a word can be determined from the meanings of the parts of which the word is built.
  11. Reduced vocabulary
  12. Multifunctional words
  13. All-purpose prepositions
  14. Simple phonology
  15. Avoid difficult sounds.
  16. Use mostly simple syllable structures.
  17. Prefer short words.
  18. Tone is not used to distinguish words.