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Outidic /ˈaʊtɪdɪk/ - Dr Outis' "Lingua Communis"

Caveat lector.
One section below is fictitious and one is factual. Which is which?
  • Why did Odysseus tell Polyphemos that his name was "Outis"?
  • Try writing "Norman" as two separate syllables.


1. General background

With Latin losing ground as a common language and the rise of standardized vernaculars in Europe as well greater contact with places such as India and China with their own centuries old linguistic traditions, the concept of constructed international languages gained ground in the 17th century. We find a priori languages such as George Dalgarno's "Ars Signorum" (1661), and Bishop John Wilkins' "An Essay towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language" (1668); the authors attempted to construct their languages from first principles and not from natural languages with the idea that such a language would be truly neutral and avoid the imperfections of natural languages.

But it is also in the 17th century that we see the first a posteriori attempts to construct an international language, such as "Grammatica linguae universalis missionum et commerciorum" (1663) of the French Jesuit priest, Philippe Labbé. This seems to have been an attempt to simplify Latin; how far it had departed from its Latin origin may be seen in his version of the 'Our Father':

Oh pat asa, u eno ni cels. Nom ee santur. Regn ee venu. Vol ee facur, tou ni cel te ni ter.
Donu mo da as li pan asa de oms dies. Te parcu da as li debs asas, tou te as parcos da debans asas. Te no ducu as ne tentag. Pa libu as ba mali.

There seems some concern for pronunciation patterns here, e.g.

  • prepositions: in (in) → ni, ab (from) → ba, ad (to) → da;
  • conjunction: et (and) → te.

The plural is shown by -s, e.g. cel "heaven" ~ cels "heavens" (this reflects the differences in the Greek which English versions usually ignore). Adjectives agree in number with their nouns, cf.

  • singular: pat asa "our father"; pan asa "our bread"
  • plural: oms dies "all days"; debs asas "our debts".

There are no case endings; the indirect object is marked by the preposition da (to), while li marks direct objects but, we are told, it may be omitted before pronouns.

Although largely an a posteriori auxlang, pronouns are a priori1, i.e. a = 1st person; e = 2nd person; u = relative pronoun.2

The pronouns do not change for subject and object, and the corresponding possessive adjectives of personal pronouns is made by reduplicating the vowel, e.g. aa = my; asa = our3. Both the pronoun and possessive adjective take the same plural ending as other nouns and adjectives; thus we find

  • a = I, me; aa = my (agreeing with single noun); aas = my (agreeing with a plural noun)
  • as = we, us; asa = our (agreeing with single noun); asas = our (agreeing with a plural noun)

We get a small glimpse of the verbal system here4. The most obvious is the ending -u to denote imperative, e.g. Donu "give", parcu "forgive", ducu "lead" and libu "deliver"; this is also used in the 3rd person as a jussive, e.g. venu "let [it] come" and enu "let it be." We see that passives are formed with the suffix -r, e.g. santur (← sant-u-r) "let [it] be hallowed" and facur (← fac-u-r) "let [it] be done." The present indicative is shown by -o, e.g. eno "is, art, are", which has to agree with the subject in number, though not in person, e.g. as parcos "we forgive."


  1. The numerals are also a priori. In this respect, Labbé's language is rather like Volapük and related auxlangs of two centuries later in being mixed a posteriori and a priori, especially regarding pronouns and numerals.
  2. The other vowels, by the way, are o = 3rd person reflexive; œ = proximal demonstrative (this); i = 3rd person & distal demonstrative (that); ou interrogative pronoun (œ and ou being the only diphthongs found in the language).
  3. Labbé also gives in his grammar: oo = his own, her own etc (reflexive); ii = his, her, its. But other pronouns use the preposition de to form possessives, e.g. de u = whose (relative); de ou? = whose?
  4. In fact the verb has five "tenses", combining both time, relative time and aspect, namely: present, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, future. There are infinitives corresponding to each tense (though what, for example, a 'pluperfect infinitive' means is not clear). But there are no subjunctives and only one imperative tense (present). The same number of tenses, infinitives and imperative exist in the passive with the addition of -r. In contrast to the ten infinitives (five active and five passive), there are only two participles: one active, and one passive.

2. Outidic

Recently another such language has come to my notice in an obscure publication (1673) "Lingua Communis omnibus et publicis et mercatoribus et doctis" (A Common Language for all statesmen, merchants and learned people) by an English scholar, one Dr Norman Outis. Whether Dr Outis was aware of Labbé's language or not is not certain. It seems, however, that Dr Outis chose to look to ancient Greek as being an older and "purer" language than Latin. He wrote his treatise in Latin, however, since this still acted as a lingua franca among the learned in Europe.

Dr Outis gave no proper name to the language, which he evidently intended as a new Koine or "common language" for the 'modern' (i.e. 17th century) world. Some contemporaries, however, dubbed the language "Outidic" (unkinder critics called it "Outlandic") and I shall use that name in these pages.

It was intended that an English version would be published, but it is unclear whether this was ever done. The quotations I give in the following pages are either taken from contemporary pamphlets (where they are possibly translations of Dr Outis' Latin rather than excerpts from an English edition of his book) or my own translations of his Latin.

It seems, however, Dr Outis' publication(s) never achieved any significant circulation and his language was considered "not philosophical"; maybe it is for that reason Dr Outis' auxlang fell beneath the radar and would be more at home in the League of Lost Languages.

Over the next few pages I present his language for interest.