World Words

Where Pandunia words come from?


Most Pandunia words are already international – at least in some part of the world! The three key criteria 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 favored.

Cultures of the world

Hartmut Traunmuller divided the world into four major cultural spheres in his article A Universal Interlanguage: Some Basic Considerations. The languages within a certain cultural sphere share words (loan words and translated loan words) and cultural concepts. The four major cultural spheres are:

  1. The Western (or the European) cultural sphere
    • This sphere covers all of Europe, Americas, Australia and various smaller regions.
    • Languages of the West have been influenced greatly by Greek and Latin and in modern times by French and English.
  2. The Afro-Asian (or the Islamic) cultural sphere
    • This group includes languages of areas where Islam is the main religion.
    • It spans from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the islands in the Pacific of Indonesia and the Philippines.
    • The languages of this cultural sphere are influenced by Persian and especially Arabic, which is the language of Quran, the holy book of Islam.
  3. The South Asian (or the Indian) cultural sphere
    • This sphere covers the very populous subcontinent of India, Indochina and more
    • The classical language of this group are Sanskrit, Tamil and Pāli
    • The Indian vocabulary has been spread by Hinduism and especially Buddhism in all directions in Asia and elsewhere.
  4. The East Asian (or the Chinese) cultural sphere
    • This culturel sphere grew around ancient China, the Middle Kingdom
    • All languages of East Asia are saturated by loan words from Chinese.
    • The biggest modern Chinese language, Mandarin, competes for the title of the most spoken language in the world today.

The cultural spheres are roughly outlined in the picture below.

Selecting the source languages

It is estimated that over 6000 different languages are spoken in the world. Some languages are spoken by many while others are spoken by only a few. It is impossible to include all languages into the construction of a world language because of their great number. The number of source languages should be manageable for one person to work with.

So, which languages should be considered?

Power Language Index provides an answer to this question. It is a tool for comparing efficacy of languages that has been created by Ph.D. Kai L. Chan. It compares languages on how well they provide to a speaker the following five opportunities:

  1. Geography: The ability to travel
  2. Economy: The ability to participate in economic activities
  3. Communication: The ability to participate in dialogue
  4. Knowledge and media: The ability to consume knowledge and media
  5. Diplomacy: The ability to engage in international relations

Chan builds a ranking of languages based on a combination of the above-listed opportunities. This ranking is used as a reference in Pandunia.

The main source languages for Pandunia

Most Pandunia words are borrowed from the following 14 widely spoken languages. The languages are selected so that they represent different language families, different geographical regions and different cultures.

The following table is ordered by the rank in the Power Language Index.

Language Native speakers in millions Rank in the Power Language Index Cultural sphere
English 446 1 Western
Mandarin 960 2 East Asian
French 80 3 Western
Spanish 470 4 Western
Arabic 295 5 Afro-Asian
Russian 150 6 Western
Hindi-Urdu 442 8 Indian & Afro-Asian
Japanese 125 9 East Asian
Portuguese 215 10 Western
Malay 77 14 Indian & Afro-Asian
Korean 80 16 East Asian
Bengali 210 30 Indian & Afro-Asian
Swahili 10 37 Afro-Asian
Vietnamese 76 43 East Asian

Because the languages constantly influence each other, there are a lot of international words. Some words are international in the West, some in the East, and some are even global. Pandunia attempts to use as international, intercontinental and global words as possible.

Word selection method

Words that are specific to a certain culture shall be adopted from languages that best represent that culture.

Words for objects of nature (for example plants and animal species) shall be adopted from a language that is spoken in the area where that object is found.

So the first question is, does the word belong to a certain region or culture?

Yes. → Select the word from languages that are important in that region or culture.
No. → Use the following word selection method.

  1. Collect translations for a given word in the 12 languages or language teams that are listed below by using electronic or printed dictionaries, Wiktionary, Google Translate, or some other tool.
  2. Identify groups of similar words.
    • Similar words can be historically related
    • or they can sound alike by coincidence.
  3. Select the most international group of similar words.
    • The more international, the better.
    • The best words are cross-cultural.
    • If there's no cross-cultural word, select the one that is known by the greatest number of 1st language speakers.
  4. Select a word form that represents the group well and fits into Pandunia well.

The list of source languages for general words:

  1. English
  2. French
  3. Spanish and/or Portuguese
  4. Russian
  5. Arabic
  6. Mandarin
  7. Japanese
  8. Korean and/or Vietnamese
  9. Hindi and/or Urdu
  10. Bengali
  11. Malay
  12. Swahili

Normally a word appears in at least two of the source languages. In case there isn't a common word, partially similar words can be selected. Only in the last resort a word from only one language can be accepted.


Selecting the word for "language"

First possible candidates are searched from widely spoken languages. The search reveals that there are several words that are international.

  • Arabic لغة /luɣa/ is also known in Swahili lugha. It is also known in Persian and Turkic languages but with the meaning "dictionary".
  • Persian زبان /zæba:n/ has spread to Urdu and Punjabi among others.
  • Latinate lingua is found in the Romance languages and it has spread to most European languages in words like linguistics and multilingual.
  • Indo-Aryan भाषा /bʱaʂa/ is used in Hindi and Bangla and it has spread to several neighbouring languages including Telugu, Thai and Indonesian.

The most prevalent of these words is /bʱaʂa/. It is recognised nearly everywhere in India, Indochina and Malay archipelago, which are some of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Language Spoken word Written word
Hindi bʱaʂa भाषा
Punjabi bʱaʃa ਭਾਸ਼ਾ
Gujarati bʱaʃa ભાષા
Marathi bʱaɕa भाषा
Bangla bʱaʃa ভাষা
Telugu baʃa భాష
Thai pʰa:sa: ภาษา
Indonesian bahasa bahasa
Javanese basa basa
Sundanese basa basa

As you can see, the same word is written and pronounced differently in different languages. This is typical of international words. They get adapted in almost every language to their own spelling system. Likewise it is necessary to adapt this word to the spelling and pronunciation rules of Pandunia. So the Pandunia word for language becomes basha.

Examples of global words

bir (beer)

Language Spoken word Written word
German bi:ɐ Bier
English biəɹ beer
French biɛʁ bière
Italian birra birra
Turkish bira bira
Arabic bi:ra بيرَه
Amharic bira ቢራ
Rwanda bjere byere
Swahili bia bia
Hindi bijər बियर
Indonesian bir bir
Japanese bi:ru ビール
Wu bi 啤(酒)
Mandarin pʰi 啤(酒)

chai (tea)

Language Spoken word Written word
Mandarin tʂʰa
Japanese tʃa
Korean tʃʰa
Vietnamese tʂa trà
Bangla tʃa চা
Hindi tʃay चाय
Russian tʃay чай
Turkish tʃay çay
Swahili tʃai chai
Arabic ʃay شاي
Portuguese ʃa chá

moto (motor)

Language Spoken word Written word
Spanish motor motor
English moʊtəɹ motor
French motœʁ moteur
Russian motor мотор
Turkish motor motor
Persian motor موتور
Arabic mutu:r موتور
Hindi motər मोटर
Japanese mo:ta: モーター
Mandarin muotuo 摩托

Examples of semiglobal words

bandera (flag)

Language Spoken word Written word
Portuguese bɐndeiɾa bandeira
Spanish bandeɾa bandera
English bænəɹ banner
French baniɛʁ bannière
Indonesian bəndera bendera
Amharic bandera ባንዴራ
Swahili bandera bandera
Kongo bande:la bandêla

kamisa (shirt)

Language Spoken word Written word
Italian kamitʃa camicia
Spanish kamisa camisa
Portuguese kɐmiza camisa
French ʃəmiz chemise
Arabic qami:s قميص
Amharic ʃəmiz ሸሚዝ
Urdu qami:z قمیض
Hindi qami:z क़मीज़
Indonesian kəmedʒa kemeja
Filipino kamisa kamisa

Examples of South Asian words

pal (fruit)

Language Spoken word Written word
Hindi phal फल
Bangla phal ফল
Telugu phalamu
Tamil palam பழம்
Thai phon(la) ผน(ละ)

Examples of East Asian words

lai (come)

Language Spoken word Written word
Mandarin lai 来 (lái)
Cantonese loi
Vietnamese la:i lại
Japanese rai

Examples of words from Arabic

dua (prayer)

Language Spoken form Written word
Arabic duʿa: دعاء
Persian doʕa دعاء
Turkish dua dua
Kazakh duɣa дұға
Indonesian doa doa
Hausa adduʕa addu'a
Yoruba adura àdúrà

kitabu (writing)

This word means book in many languages. The original Arabic word means all kinds of writing.

Language Spoken form Written word
Arabic kita:b كتاب
Persian keta:b کتاب
Urdu kitab کتاب
Hindi kitab किताब
Indonesian kitab kitab
Turkish kitap kitap
Oromo kita:ba kitaaba
Swahili kitabu kitabu

Examples of scattered words

jen (person, people)

The word jen is combined from several unrelated sources.

  • East Asia
    • Mandarin 人 /ʐən/ (person)
    • Wu 人 /zəŋ/ (person)
    • Japanese 人 /dʒin/ (person, in some compounds)
  • the West
    • French "gens" /ʒã/ (people)
    • Portuguese "gente" /ʒenti/ (people)
  • South Asia
    • Hindi जन /dʒan/ (person, people)
    • Bengali জন /dʒon/ (counter word for people)
    • Thai ชน /t͡ɕʰon˧/ (person, people)
    • Khmer ជន /cɔ:n/ (person, people)

kamar (room, chamber)

  • the West
    • Italian "camera" (chamber)
    • Portuguese "câmara" (chamber)
    • Spanish "cámara" (chamber)
    • German "Kammer" (chamber)
  • South Asia
    • Hindi कमरा /kəmra:/ (room)
    • Urdu کمرا /kəmra:/ (room)
    • Malay "kamar" (room)

gata (to cut)

  • the West
    • English "cut" /kʌt/
  • South Asia
    • Hindi काटना /katna:/
    • Bengali কাটা /kata/
  • Africa
    • Swahili "-kata"
  • East Asia
    • Wu Chinese 隔 /kɐʔ/
    • Vietnamese "cắt" /kɐʔt/

amir (order, command)

Originally an Arabic word, it has been borrowed to the West as "emir" (commander of an Islamic nation) and "admiral" (commander of the navy).

  • Africa and Asia
    • Arabic أَمْر‎ /ʾamr/
    • Persian امر‎ /amr/
    • Turkish "emir"
    • Swahili "amri"
    • Hausa "umarni"
  • the West
    • English "emir" and "admiral"
    • French "amiral" (admiral)
    • Russian "эмир" (emir)