Volapük (Vp. 'world's language') is an international auxiliary language published in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer. It was the first auxlang to reach a major audience, but was soon eclipsed by Esperanto. By the year 1900, Volapük was close to being a dead language. The reasons often given for this quick decline are probably an overcomplicated grammatical structure, words being difficult to pronounce, and the allegedly proprietary attitude of its creator. Schleyer had turned down several reform proposals and asserted that he was the only person allowed to invent new words or change rules of grammar. Thereby, claim some, the language could no longer function as a world language.
In 1931 Arie de Jong published a reformed version of Volapük. This version is now called Volapük Nulik (New Volapük) in contrast with the original 1879 version which today is called Volapük Rigik (Original Volapük).
There is an unbroken line of Cifals (leaders; Vp. high-chiefs) of the Volapük-speaking community since the language's publication. They are:
- Johann Martin Schleyer, 1879-1912
- Albert Sleumer, 1912-1948
- Jakob Sprenger, 1948-1950
- Johann Schmidt, 1950-1977
- Johann Krüger, 1977-1983
- Brian Bishop, 1984-2014
- Hermann Philips, 2014-present
In 2000, it was estimated that there were 20 speakers of Volapük worldwide. Today a Volapük group on Facebook has a few hundred members. There is a Yahoo group for Volapük as well. These groups use Volapük Nulik.