Created byOlivier Simon
Constructed language
  • Sambahsa-Mundialect
Language codes
ISO 639-3(a proposal to use sph was rejected in 2018[1])

Sambahsa [samˈbaːsa] or Sambahsa-Mundialect is a constructed international auxiliary language (IAL) devised by French linguist Olivier Simon.[2] Among IALs, it is categorized as a worldlang. It is based on the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) and has a relatively complex grammar.[3][4] The language was first released on the Internet in July 2007; prior to that, the creator claims to have worked on it for eight years. According to one of the rare academic studies addressing recent auxiliary languages, "Sambahsa has an extensive vocabulary and a large amount of learning and reference material".[5]

The first part of the name of the language, Sambahsa, is composed of two words from the language itself, sam and bahsa, which mean 'same' and 'language', respectively. Mundialect, on the other hand, is a fusion of mundial 'worldwide' and dialect 'dialect'.

Sambahsa tries to preserve the original spellings of words as much as possible and this makes its orthography complex, though still kept regular.[6] There are four grammatical cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.[7]

Sambahsa, though based on PIE, borrows a good proportion of its vocabulary from languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Swahili and Turkish, which belong to various other language families.[2]


Sambahsa's phonology[8] has little to do with Proto-Indo-European phonology, though the majority of its vocabulary comes from PIE. The changes from PIE are not regular, since the creator of Sambahsa has tried to avoid homophones, which would have become common after the elimination of some PIE sounds like laryngeals or some aspirated consonants. However, any person proficient with Proto-Indo-European roots will easily recognize them when they appear in Sambahsa. Unlike some auxlangs like Esperanto, Sambahsa does not use the "one letter = one sound" principle, nor diacritics, but instead relies on a regular and complex system that combines the 26 letters of the basic Latin alphabet.[9] This system was chosen to preserve the recognizability of words taken from West-European languages, where orthography plays a key role. For example, according to the rules of Sambahsa, bureau is pronounced as in French, and point as in English.

Sambahsa has nine vowels (not counting the lengthened form of these vowels), two semi-vowels (IPA: [j] and [w]) and twenty consonants.[10] To help language learners, and because IPA symbols cannot be written with all keyboards, a special simpler system has been developed, called Sambahsa Phonetic Transcription, or SPT.

Compared to other conlangs, Sambahsa words are short, often as short as English words, and highly consonantic.[11] This latter point is in accordance with the PIE background of Sambahsa, where roots have often a consonant-vocal-consonant structure.[12]

Likewise, Sambahsa's accentuation rules are complex but regular, and tend to follow what is often found in German or Italian. This predictability implies that all words with the same orthography are pronounced and stressed the same way as each other. Thus, for example, while German Präsident and Italian presidente are stressed on the "ent" syllable, Sambahsa president is stressed on the "i", since president can also mean "they preside", and a final "ent" never bears the stress. This regularity of accentuation can be compared with English president and to preside, two words that bear the stress on different syllables, though they share the same origin.

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n        
Stop Voiced b d   ɡ    
Voiceless p t   k    
Affricate Voiced     z /d͡z/ g /d͡ʒ/        
Voiceless     c /t͡s/ ch /t͡ʃ/        
Fricative Voiced v   s /z/ j /ʒ/     ʁ  
Voiceless f th /θ/ s sch /ʃ/ sh /ç/ kh /x/   h
Approximant w   l   y /j/ (w)    
Trill     r          
Oral Vowels
Front Central Back
Close i(ː) y(ː) u(ː)
Mid e(ː) ø(ː) ə o(ː)
Open ɛ(ː) a(ː)



In Sambahsa, declensions are only compulsory for pronouns. The declensions of these pronouns (demonstrative/interrogative and relative/personal) are mostly parallel, and often show similarities with their Proto-Indo-European ancestors. Thus, in all Sambahsa declensions, the neuter nominative and accusative are identical, as it was the case in PIE.[13] There are identical forms for the relative and interrogative pronouns,[14] as well as for the third person pronoun and the definite article (the in English).[15]

Sambahsa has two numbers (singular and plural; the dual number of PIE has not been preserved) and four grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, neuter, and undetermined. This last gender, which is an innovation from PIE, is used when a noun of uncertain or unknown gender is referred to, and, in the plural, for groups containing elements of different genders. The creator of Sambahsa introduced this non-PIE element to avoid the "gender" dispute found in Esperanto.

Gender is attributed in Sambahsa according to the "true nature" of the noun referred to, as English speakers do with he, she and it.

Sambahsa has four grammatical cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive; however, their attribution tries to be as logical as possible, and not arbitrary as in many modern Indo-European languages. The nominative is the case of the subject, and the form under which words are given in dictionaries. Except for verbs describing a movement or a position (where the appropriate prepositions ought to be used), all transitive verbs must introduce the accusative case in the first place, before an eventual dative case. However, the dependent clause of indirect speech is considered as a direct object, leading to verbs introducing an indirect object, even if there is no visible direct object.


In Sambahsa, all prepositions trigger the accusative.[16]

The genitive indicates possession, and is used after adjectives that can introduce a dependent clause.


For substantives and adjectives, there are declined "free endings" (i.e. non-compulsory) used most often in literary context for euphonics or poetry. This system is inspired by the euphonic endings (ʾiʿrāb) found in Modern Standard Arabic.


In Sambahsa, all verbs are regular, except ses ('to be'), habe ('to have'), and woide ('to know', in the meaning of French savoir or German wissen). Sambahsa verbs are indicated in dictionaries not under their infinitive form, but their bare stem, because the whole conjugation can be deduced from the form of this stem. The main tenses of Sambahsa are present and past, but many other tenses can be obtained through the use of affixes or auxiliary verbs. Sambahsa uses the following endings, which are close to those found in many Indo-European languages.[17]

Person Present and other tenses Past tense only
First-person singular -o, -m (if the verb ends with a stressed vocalic sound) or nothing (if the last vowel of the verb is unstressed) -im
Second-person singular -s -(i)st(a)
Third-person singular -t -it
First-person plural -m(o)s -am
Second-person plural -t(e) -at
Third-person plural -e(nt) ("-nt" is compulsory if the verb ends with a stressed vocalic sound) -(ee)r

Sambahsa is unusual among auxlangs because of its use of a predictable ablaut system for the past tense and passive past participles. For example, eh within a verbal stem turns to oh. Other verbs that cannot use ablaut can drop their nasal infix, or use an improved version of the De Wahl's rules. Finally, the remaining verbs simply add the past tense endings, which are optional for verbs of the categories described above.

Therefore, this system qualifies Sambahsa as a language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages, though it remains a constructed language.[citation needed]


Because of its rather large vocabulary for an auxlang (as of August 2020, the full Sambahsa-English dictionary contained more than 18,000 entries[18]), it is difficult to assess the share of each language in Sambahsa's eclectic wordstock. However, the main layers are (either reconstructed or extrapolated) Indo-European vocabulary, Greco-Roman scientific and technical vocabulary (which is not discussed below, as it is more or less comparable to what is found in English) and multiple sources extending from Western Europe to Eastern Asia.

Indo-European vocabulary

The core of Sambahsa's vocabulary is undoubtedly of Indo-European origin. Only a few Sambahsa words can be traced back to pre-Indo-European times (like kamwns, 'chamois', cf. Basque: ahuntz). Many basic Sambahsa words are thus very close to their reconstructed Indo-European counterparts. See (Sambahsa/Proto-Indo-European): eghi/*H₁eghis ('hedgehog'), ghelgh/*ghelghe- ('gland'), pehk/*pek ('to comb'), skand/*skand ('to jump'), peungst/*pn̥kʷsti- ('fist'), wobhel/*wobhel- ('weevil'), gwah/*gweH₂ ('to go'), tox/*tòksom ('yew wood' in Sambahsa; 'yew' in PIE), treb/*trêbs ('dwelling'), oit/*H₁òitos ('oath'), poti/*potis ('Sir, lord'). But less attested Indo-European vocabulary is found in Sambahsa too. For example, the common Sambahsa word for person is anghen, as in semanghen, 'someone, somebody', and can be derived from PIE *?*H₂enH₁ǵh, only found in Old Armenian anjn ('person') and Old Norse angi ('smell'). And motic ('hoe') may be a cognate of Old Church Slavonic motyka and English mattock.

Further development from the Indo-European background

Though Sambahsa, like any other conlang, has derivation rules, it sometimes uses backformation too. For example, the relation between Lithuanian bendras ('companion'), Old Greek pentheros ('father-in-law') and Sanskrit bandhu- ('companion') is uncertain;[19] however Sambahsa "reconstructs" this root as behndwr from behnd 'to bind'. PIE has *dhéǵhom 'earth' and *dhinéǵh- (with nasal infix) 'to shape, to make pottery'; accordingly, Sambahsa has (di)ghom and dinegh, but the latter can be understood as "to put earth on" if we refer to yug ('yoke') and yuneg ('to join'), both from PIE *yugom and *yunég-.

The Sambahsa word for 'ice pellet' is kersnit; it rests on the word kersen 'frozen snow', itself from Old Norse hjarn, Lithuanian šarma ('frost') and Russian serën.[20] But the suffix -it was abstracted from PIE words like *sepit 'grain of wheat' and *H₂elbit 'grain of barley';[21] thus kersnit can be understood as 'a grain of frozen snow'.

Words common to different language families

A characteristic of Sambahsa is to include words found in different language families, while the most famous auxiliary languages tend to limit themselves to a compilation of Romance vocabulary with some borrowings from the Germanic languages. For example:

The Balkan sprachbund

Though they belong to different language families,[clarification needed][dubious ] the languages spoken in Southeast Europe share a number of common grammatical features and of loanwords due to their historical background.[citation needed] That is why Sambahsa includes words from this region.

Words from Arabic and Persian

A significant part of Sambahsa's vocabulary comes from Arabic and Persian. Both languages have extensively provided loanwords to a lexical continuum ranging from the Atlantic Ocean to Indonesia because, respectively, of the spread of Islam and the brilliance of the former Persian civilization. Sambahsa learning materials often call this stratum "Muslim".

Sinitic vocabulary

Classical Chinese has heavily influenced the wordstock of neighbouring languages, mostly Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. As a result, Sambahsa incorporates some Sinitic vocabulary, but the phonetic differences between these various languages can be high.

Not all Sambahsa Sinitic words come from Classical Chinese. The Min Nan language of Southern China provided loanwords to some South-East Asian languages, and some of these borrowings are, in turn, found in Sambahsa.

Sample phrases

Sambahsa English
Sellamat! Hello!
Kam leitte yu? How are you?
Leito. Fine.
Bahte yu Sambahsa? Do you speak Sambahsa?
No, ne bahm Sambahsa. No, I don't speak Sambahsa.
Marba! Pleased to meet you!

Literary works translated into Sambahsa

Movies with Sambahsa subtitles


  1. ^ "Change Request Documentation: 2017-036". SIL International.
  2. ^ a b Olivier Simon (2010). "The Official Website of Sambahsa". Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  3. ^ Mithridates (2009-05-14). "Why You Should Keep an Eye on Sambahsa". Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  4. ^ "sambahsa / FrontPage". Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  5. ^ "The Representation of Korean and Other Altaic Languages in Artificial International Auxiliary Languages" in Journal of Universal Language, March 2012, p.153, by Alan Reed Libert.
  6. ^ A full analysis of Sambahsa (written in Esperanto) has been made by S.Auclair in La Riverego n°104, pp. 11-16,
  7. ^ Dave MacLeod (2010). "Foreword to the Sambahsa Grammar in English". Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  8. ^ "sambahsa / Sambahsa pronunciation in English". Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  9. ^ "The strange quest for a universal "Earth Standard" language" by Esther Inglis-Arkell, 08-17-2012 :
  10. ^ However, different versions of pronunciation of "r" are admitted, and the "ng" sound (as in English "sing") could be counted as a new sound, distinct from the conjunction of [n] + [g].
  11. ^ See this link on a French-speaking forum :
  12. ^ Benveniste, Émile (1962). Origines de la formation des noms en indo-européen (in French). Adrien-Maisonneuve.
  13. ^ R.S.P. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, J.Benjamins.Pub., p.195
  14. ^ With the exception of the nominative singular masculine, as in Latin, where the relative pronoun is qui, and the interrogative form is quis.
  15. ^ But the genitive form serves only for the definite article, while the possessive pronouns have special forms (otherwise, confusions could have arisen).
  16. ^ Under certain circumstances, the preposition bi can merge with the definite article in its dative form.
  17. ^ They can be compared to the data provided in Indo-European Linguistics : an introduction by J. Clackson, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 127 & 128.
  18. ^ "Sambahsa English Dictionary - Nature". Scribd. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  19. ^ J.P Mallory & D.Q. Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, p.196
  20. ^ ibidem, p.287
  21. ^ ibidem, p.639