Monday, August 17, 2009

aUI -- the language of space

aUI (capitalization significant) was created in the 1950s by John Weilgart, an Austrian-born psychiatrist working in Iowa. (We can discount the story that he learned it in an instant from a little green man when he was a child of 5 on internal evidence alone: the precise fit with the English alphabet - including some pushing to make the fit -- the frequent coincidences of aUI and English or German words, the rigorous SAE grammar, and so on for quite a while). He publishedaUI The Language of Space first in 1961 and continued working on it until at least 1979, when he published the 4th revised and expanded edition, with the further subtitle Pentecostal Logos of Love & Peace. The basic language changed little over the years, the new books added new ways to approach the topic, new stories (apparently autobiographical, but probably not -- see above), and new commendation from various scientific and "scientific" sources. There seems to have been an occasional flurry of interest in aUI: a now defunct list, a commercial site (also defunct) for Cosmic Communication Co. (run by a daughter?) and a recent Facebook family with a handful of active members.


aUI is a philosophical language, i.e., words bear their meaning on their faces: related concepts have related spellings and the spelling defines (at least delimits) the concept named. Thus, aUI aims to clarify our concepts and thus avoid misleading speech and propaganda. This, if universally adopted, would end misunderstandings at all levels, leading to peace, love and maybe the parousia. So, it is intended also as an auxlang -- indeed, as a replacement language -- for the world (indeed, for the cosmos). In the meantime, it is useful in logotherapy, helping confused people (at whatever degree) to get clear their thoughts by expressing them analytically in this language.


Weilgart uses the English alphabet (and, covertly, parts of the German and Scandanavian) to the fullest: all the letters, plus all the capitalized vowels and both sets of vowels underlined. Each of these has a sound and a meaning (and the sound or its manner of production is somehow iconic of its meaning). Words are then constructed by concatenating sounds to show interaction of meanings. All of this totally a priori. He also provides a native aUI alphabet in which each sound is provided with an iconic symbol for its meaning, perhaps less a priori, since some human conventions clearly play a part.


The alphabet has it usual English values except that
the vowels have the Italian values, lowercase are shorter and generally lower than upper case
underlined vowels of both sorts are nasalized
j is ezh
c is esh
q is umlaut o (Mach den Mund rund und sag 'e')
y is umlaut u (ditto but 'i') between consonants or spaces; before vowels it is y.
underlined (and usually capitalized) Y is nasalized
Orthographically, the use of capital L and capital Q are encouraged (to prevent confusion with 1 and I on the one hand, g on the other). Otherwise capitalas are used only meaningfully with vowels and with borrowed names.

Consecutive vowels do not diphthongize but are pronounced separately, though without a marked break.

Separate words do have a marked break between them, since run together they might form a single word (though one related to what is intended).

Stress accent (which is also higher pitched) falls on the nasalized vowel, if there is one; on the long (capital) vowel, if there is one but no nasal: and, in the remaining cases (neither nasal nor long, or two or more of the dominant type) , on the penult or as near as possible while meeting the dominance requirement. Some words, when the stem of a verb, keep their original accent even if syllables are inserted after.


Each sound is also a morpheme with an assigned meaning, an idea it conveys. Words are formed by first defining the idea you wish to convey, arranging already defined ideas as modifier and modified, then concatenating the two words in that order. This starts with letter-letter pairs, but such pairs and their extentions often become fixed words, which then act as a unit in later definitions. So the structure is basically right grouping but with possible left grouped chunks (which may be right grouping internally, of course). As a matter of etiquette, when introducing a new term in writing, the left groups should be marked off with dashes, since the straightforward form might be capable of many interpretations (though context and familiarity with the standing vocabulary do allow for fairly rapid understanding). The morph y, not, etc., is particularly like to form tight left groups. the polar opposite of the group it modifies (cf. Eo. mal-) (in the native spelling, the bar which is the symbol for y extends over the whole modified block, so is more clear than either the spoken or the English-written form).

aUI words are generally concrete nouns originally. Any of them can be made into an adjective by suffixing m, quality. From these in turn, abstract nouns can be made by adding U, thought, mind, etc., and then, from these, words for concepts by adding z, part, etc. Adjectives may serve as adverbs or become official adverbs by suffixing Q (O umlaut, remember), condition, manner, etc. In all of these, the original noun remains as a left unit within the right grouping.
Neither gender nor number is required, but, if wanted, plurals are formed by inserting (or suffixing) n, number, after the last vowel. Gender goes unmarked but can be part of a word in the course of things, with the (nonfinal) components v, male, or yv, female, occurring (pronouns use these ro modify words for the right sort of thing: u, human, os, animal, living thing, io, plant, light-life, Es, thing, material object; the resulting words are also the basic words for male and female of the given type thing.)

In a similar way, nouns can be verbed by add v, activity, etc., and then become available for a number of modifications, basically the handy appendix to your Latin textbook:
Imperative: insert r, good, positive, etc., before v (before yv in passive verb forms.
Passive: as just noted, insert y before v, creating the opposite of activity.
Past tense inserts pA, before-time, before v
Future tense inserts tA, toward-time, before v. These can be repeated and mixed to get past perfect and future perfect and the (unused) converses.
Participles end in Am, time quality, added after the v for the present, dropping the v in the past tense to give -pAm for the past. and shifting the A around the v in the future tense to give -tvAm.
Causative verbs are formed by inserting (or prefixing) v before the first vowel (or, if that is modified by y, just before that y).
Optative mood: - -Or-, feeling-good, like to, before v.
Subjunctive (contrary-to-fact) suffix -yEc, not materially existing.

There are a few other frequently used patterns, but they all, like these, are simply applications of the general pattern for constructing words.


Weilgart says "There is no special grammar, All elements of meaning and their combinations still mean what they say. The rule is we talk 'as clear as we must, as short as we can.'" This seems to mean that, if it works in English, it works in aUI, subject to the following overriding fact.

aUI is a rigorously SVO language, with AN modification structure (as in word construction) and prepositions in lieu of cases -- except direct object is positional, right after the verb. Prepositional phrases tend to come at the end, after the object. Relative clauses are not inverted, nor are questions, the relative or interrogative word comes at its natural place in the order. If the relative word (starting with x, relative) is buried too deep in the structure -- object of a complex verb, say, or a preposition, a warning marker, xQ, relative condition, may be placed at the head of the clause. If there is no question word in the question (so yes-no questions), hI, question sound, is placed at the end. There is no distinction between restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses, although Weilgart does seem to use commas in the American way in writing.

Indirect discourse is a regular sentence introduced by Uf, think this, in the (usually) object place in the expressing sentence. Indirect questions seem to be just questions set off with a colon. Direct quotations are merely enclosed in quotation marks (sometimes with a colon before as well), which have no spoken matches.

Conjuncted expressions occupying various slots do not require different conjunctions (it works in English, ...). "Or" has both simple gaf, room this (don't ask), between alternatives and an "either ... or" form with gaf before each alternative. But "if," Qg, qualified inside, does not appear to have a matching "then," for the temporal yfA, not this time, clearly won't work (we might try something like fQ, this condition, if something like the right sense of "under" or "on" were available). The contrary-to-fact sense of conditionals is carried by the verbs.

Predicate adjectives occupy the V slot preceded by c, is, exists; predicate nouns do so with various extensions of j, identity, or z, part of.


Starting with only thirty some concepts to define everything means that the initial concepts must be very broad indeed and that the means of combining them various. The first point means that one concept in aUI may seem like a random mix of several concepts, distinct in English. Presumably (I haven't done thorough research here) the definitions in aUI of those English concepts will help to see the unified nature of the aUI concepts. Similarly, since there is only one way of showing relationships, the exact nature of the relation may be obscure. Happily, Weilgart provides a number of discussions of particular cases as a guide.

The basic pattern is, of course, differentia and genus: picking out one subconcept (or subset of things) by indicating how it (they) differ from the rest. Thus, from s, thing (the notion seems to involve boundaries setting off from others), by adding a, space, we get as, place, a delimited bit of space. Similarly, As, time thing, instant, and Us, thought thing, (individual) thought. Another way of breaking down concepts is descent to instances: fa, this space, here (though fas would work as well). An interesting case of this approach is fu, this human, I, me, a nicely oriental touch (without the kowtow), saving a lot of concept space. Sometimes, however, the relation is part of the compound itself: gaf, or, instead of this, in place this.

Reading Weilgart's translation dictionaries and, more interestingly, his encyclopedia of compounds and his explanation of the "100 basic" ones, results in one of two responses,usually: "Oh, now I see it" or "But why doesn't it mean...," often simultaneously; the third, normal second speaker, response is "But wouldn't ... be better for that?" In the end, one has to say that one constructs what is right for one's concept, which may not be the same as someone else's though they use the same English word. Weilgart tells (whether a report or a thought experiment is unclear) of a group of children learning aUI and being asked for the aUI word for "love." The results are all over the place, but each has a plausible claim to be right; indeed, all are right -- for what the speaker means by "love" at that time. So aUI can convey simply shades of meaning that would be difficult or impossible to convey in English, say.

Discussed Problems

I have no evidence of an active aUI groups working over the material in the book. Clearly, a few people have done some things with the language, but they have left few records. Outside observers, however, have pointed out a number of things, mainly having to do with presuppositions (prejudices?) embedded in the language as presented. The other comments have been about the essential weirdness of the language as a human language (some evidence that it did come from little green men, perhaps, or just the result of being a consistent philosophical language). One instance of this is the lack of special status for the personal pronouns (in so far as there are such, separate from generic words). We saw an example of this in the first person case, fu, this person, but it carries through the rest: fnu, we, bu, with-person, and the plural bnu (the person with you in the conversation). The other is the deviation from the almost universals of human languages, the -m- in words for mother, for example (sometimes lost in later sound shifts, to be sure). ytLu holds little hope for this: not-toward round person = from-woman, the woman you come from.

This shows the earlier mentioned problem, presuppositions. Why should a round person, Lu, be equated with a woman? (My IHOP experiences show men at least on a par with women in this area). Actually, this case is a part of the evidence that other people have worked on this language, for the earlier -- and still legitmate -- word for woman was yvu, not-active human, passive human, and the stem yv is still the normal qualifier for females in other species. And examples like this (though not so egregious) can be found on every page. On the other hand, "purely by chance," some things come out familiar, like bru, together-good human, friend.

The definitions also presuppose a certain state of science, more or less the current one as popularly understood. So, for example, elements are named by their atomic number suffixed to Ez, matter part, element, so oxygen. atomic number 8, is Ez8 [the numerals are the symbols for the nasalized vowels, in the order aeiuo (so we go from alpha to omega) AEIUO. nasalized O is written 0, of course, but does not stand for zero, only the place holder in decimal notation; the real zero is nasalized Y, also written with 0, but never in strings: nasal O is always preceded by at least one other number, a multiplier on 10]. While this is not likely to change or to be different on another planet enough like ours to have recognizable science, the color terms are less sure. These are formed by prefixing numbers to i, light, the numbers corresponding to the position of the color on the spectrum, going up from red =1. Quite aside from questions about other color ranges (less than this or more, or shifted) the list is strange in that it has green as 3 and violet as 5, but not orange, which is 12i, red-yellow light (another type of conection, mixtures or going together -- but how distinguished from twelve?).


Though I have studied aUI off and on for 30 years (an awful winter in Iowa for a start), I have never lived in it or even learned a bit of it, so I cannot comment on how the language works as lived. But viewed as an object, it is an interesting specimen.

It is, first of all, a remarkably complete philosophical language. With some (mainly early and remarkable) exceptions, philangers have been so concerned to get the right set of basic concepts and to put them together in just the right way that they have never gotten beyond a vocabulary and even that often only writable, not speakable. aUI is speakable (OK, so bnu may not flow easily, but it does come) and has enough padding (though we don't call it that) to buffer the worst possibilities that might arise -- and enough various ways of combining to avoid most of these possilities any way. It has a clear phonology attached to its concepts and a plausible (or at least mnemonically useful) explanation for the association of each sound with its concept. It has the framework of a grammar, which is not always "do what you do in English (or Latin)," though it does fall back on that from time to time.

The definitions/word construction in aUI are usually interesting, sometimes because they are horribly wrong, but often because they insightful or at least thought-provoking. Many of them might serve as guides -- either directly or because of the process used -- for constructions in other semantic prime languages.

I suppose that Weilgart's aim would not be fulfilled by this language. While people might be able to express what they mean more precisely and thus understand what they are saying to each other, this would not bring an end to misunderstanding and propaganda and war. People lie, and those in positions to generate propaganda and war more so than most. So, while what I say may be clear as a bell, it may not be what I think. Not everyone can be trusted to put yr, bad, (Lojban mal-) in front of every derogatory word they use. But among trustworthy people, clarity is nice and -- assuming the trustworthiness -- imagine how many disasters of one sort or another would have been avoided, if, instead of "I love you," each had spelled out what they meant.


  1. Thanks for this fairly thorough commentary and critique of aUI!..I just now have been referred to it though it's been several years since you posted it. I am interested in connecting with people who have a serious interest in aUI, my father's experiment in communication. I've finally set aside time for it's further creative development and need others to exchange ideas with. Please let me know if you or others you know might be interested. Linguists and conlang folks may have backgrounds that would be helpful in working out further details of aUI.
    Andrea Weilgart Patten

    1. Ms. Patten,

      Is there any place on the web where I can find more information on your father's aUI language?
      In working on my own constructed language, I've been doing research on existing philosophical languages, but other than a few scattered articles on aUI, I can not seem to find any complete information on this language. Any direction you can provide would be helpful. Thank you!


      Brian 'Rock' Brown
      Herndon, VA

    2. Brian -
      So sorry not to have replied sooner, I'm just seeing this!! (actually I was bedridden for almost 3 months with a rare illness at that time).
      The website is at: , but is dated and I am just beginning a full revision; (also there is an error - the phoneme for Good is 'r', and for Round is 'L'.
      The original aUI textbook and its companion book, 'The Cosmic Elements of Meaning', which delves into philosophical associations of each symbol, are available at:
      Thanks for your interest!

  2. Ms. Patten,

    I've owned a copy of your father's book for about 7 years ... waiting for the time to begin fully exploring it and aUI. I live in Chicago, I work in the nonprofit community, I am pursuing a PhD in performance psychology, and I am working to start a nonprofit which equips people to perform at their best as they pursue social change in various sectors of society.

    I'm really intrigued by your father's intent for aUI (as well as the language's origin), and I would be honored to get your insight into all this as well as to where you think the language can go from here. I also recall seeing somewhere that there were some LP records of aUI (perhaps a course or something) that may have been a part of a university library in Iowa ... do you know of such recordings?

    At any rate, I'd be interested in exploring aUI further in the context of your research as well as some research ideas I have of my own. Please free to reach out to me at if you have an interest.



    1. Hello James,
      So sorry not to have responded to your interest!
      I'm just seeing this....and will reply further to you personally....