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Language codes

Otto Jesperson

Date founded


Basic information
Setting and usage


Category (purpose)
  • Constructed language
    • International auxiliary language
      • Novial
Category (sources)

Romance and Germanic languages; also Occidental and Ido

Language codes
ISO 639-1


ISO 639-2


ISO 639-3


Novial is a constructed international auxiliary language (IAL) intended to make international communication and friendship, without displacing any native languages. The language was created by linguist, Otto Jesperson in 1928, who was previously involved in the founding of Ido, and later in the development of Interlingua. The name is broken into two parts: nov– meaning "new", and IAL, an abbreviation for International Auxiliary Language.

The Novial vocabulary is mainly based off of the Germanic and Romance languages, and its grammar was influenced by the English language.

The language was first introduced in Jesperson's book, An International Language in 1928. It was subsequently updated in his dictionary, Novial Lexike and further modifications to Novial were suggested in the 1930s, but the language became unused as Jesperson died in 1943.[1] In the 1990s, the interest of constructed languages was revived due to the Internet, where some people rediscovered Novial.[1]

An International Language[]

Novial was first described in Jesperson's book, An International Language, published in 1928. Part One of this publication discussed the need for international auxiliary languages, the disadvantages of ethnic languages, and common objections to constructed IAL's. Jespersen also provides an overview of some constructed IAL's, with sections dedicated to the Volapük, Esperanto, Idiom Neutral, Ido, Latino sine Flexione, and Occidental (Interlingue) languages. In the book, Jespersen makes it clear that he draws on a wealth of earlier work on the problems of constructed IAL's, not only the previously mentioned IAL's.

Part Two of An International Language describes the Novial language in detail. Different possible solutions in the problems of phonology, orthography, grammar, and word-stock are considered. The choices made are explained by comparisons with ethnic languages and previously constructed IAL's.


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Letter Sound (IPA)
Sound (example)
A a a as in English father abandona abandon
B b b as in bet bebe baby
C s or k foreign names only. Generally: s before e and i
as in Celsius, otherwise k as in Cairo
Caracas Caracas
CH ʧ or ʃ ch as in church or sh as in shine chanse chance
D d d as in deep defini define
E e or ɛ é as in French fiancée or e as in in English pet egal equal
F f f as in food fala fall
G g g as in get garda guard
H h h as in hot helpa help
I i ee as in seen but shorter or i as in French petite impeda impede
J ʤ or ʒ j as in jet or s as in pleasure jirafe giraffe
K k k as in ski kioske kiosk
L l l as in let lande land
M m m as in moon magnetisa magnetise
N n n as in never nature nature
O o or ɒ o as in Italian Roma or o as in British English on observa observe
P p p as in sport papa daddy
QU kw or kv or ku qu as in question or qu as in German Quelle or cu as in Spanish cuesta questione question
R r or ɹ rolled r as in Scots English
or English r
rapid rapid
S s or z s as in summer or s as in rise sune sun
SH ʃ or ʧ sh as in shine or ch as in church shuta shoot
T t t as in step teknike technique
U u u as in put unik unique
V v v as in victory variatione variation
W w or u or v w as in west or ou in French ouest or w as in German West watt watt
X ks or gz x as in axe or x in example auxiliari auxiliary
Y j y as in you yuna young
Z z or s foreign names only. Generally: z as in Zambia
or as in original language if different
Suez Suez


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Personal pronouns[]

Person English (Nominative) English (Accusative) 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

Note: In Novial, Nominative and Accusative pronouns are the same.

As in the English language, Novial's standard word order is subject-verb-object. Therefore, the object does not need to be marked to distinguish it from the subject: ex:

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

The accusative, or direct object, is therefore most often the same as the nominative, or subject. However, in the case of an ambiguous problem, an optional accusative ending, –m (–em after a consonant), is available, but hardly used. The preposition em is equal to this ending.

Personal possessive adjectives in Novial are formed from pronouns by adding –n or –en. This is in fact the genitive, or possessive, of the pronoun, so men means both "my" and "mine". Ex:

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

Possession may also be expressed with the pronouns de, de mu, de vu, etc.

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


The forms of verbs never change with their person or number. Most verb tenses, moods, and voices are expressed by with auxiliary verbs following the root form of the main verb. The auxiliaries follow the same word order as their 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 expessed 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 of Novial is Li, which does not vary. It is used as it is in English.

There is no indefinite article, though un, or one, can be used.


Plural nouns are formed by adding –s (–es after a consonant) to the singular noun in Novial.

The accusative case is commonly identical to the nominative, but can sometimes be marked with the ending –m (–em after a consonant), with the plural form being with an –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 the prepositions.


All adjectives in Novial end in an –i, but this could possibly be dropped if the word is easy enough to pronounce and no confusion will be caused. Adjectives follow the noun qualified and do not agree with the noun, but may be given noun endings if there is no noun present to receive the adjective.


An adjective is converted to its corresponding adverb by adding –m after –i in the adjective.



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See the Table of Prefixes and Table of Suffixes at Wikibooks.


Comparison to Esperanto and Ido[]

See also: Esperanto and Novial compared, Ido and Novial compared

Otto Jespersen was a professional linguist, unlike Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto. Jespersen was not found of the arbitrary and artificial character that he found in Esperanto and Ido. Additionally, Jespersen object to languages with Latin-like systems of inflection, which he found very complex. He at once planned to make Novial pleasant-sounding and regular, while also keeping useful structures from natural languages.

In Novial:

  • Syntax depends largely upon word order, as in English and current North Germanic languages. There is no obligatory accusative marker as there is in Esperanto, but the accusative may be optionally marked with an accusative ending or an accusative preposition.
  • A genetive or possessive case is available as an alternate for the preposition de. This is mainly based on Jesperson's observation that several modern languages have lost complex noun inflections, yet keep a possessive form.
  • Verb tenses are usually expressed with auxiliary particles. An inflectional ending is available as a shorthand for past tense.

One of the most significant differences between Novial and Esperanto/Ido are the noun endings. Jesperson rejected a single vowel to terminate all the nouns, like -o in Esperanto and Ido, finding this unnatural and confusing. Instead, Novial nouns are ended in -o, -a, -e, -u, or -um. These endings may be taken to identify natural sex according to the custom of Romance languages. Also, there is no grammatical gender or requirement for adjectives to fit with the nouns.

Language sample[]

Here is the Lord's Prayer in Novial, Esperanto, Ido, Latin, and English for comparison.

Novial version: Esperanto version: Ido version: Latin version: English 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 disidi 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.

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
[For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.]