I need some help with bibliography to fill some topics that a need for my project.

Im trying to create a pure a priori language where phonetic and syllable are linked to the meaning of the roots of the words, and the syntactic sense (so words are some kind of image of the meaning).

I know something of Esperanto and Toki pona but I have a problem here, and this the reason why I opened this question: I need some bibliography about the most simple grammars and, specially, I need some bibliography about the most basic vocabulary some that language must have.

Im trying to start from the basics: needs and relationships of humans, and going to more abstract things as time, space, quantitative, qualitative, relational or types of things.


3 Answers 3


You should look at the Natural Semantic Metalanguage. This is a (controversial) theory of human language which argues that all human languages are built on about 65 'primes' - basic blocks of meaning which cannot themselves be divided into other blocks. After 40 years of research the list has been refined through the study of languages from many unrelated families.

You can access the list of primes here and a page examining their syntax here.

  • I once had an advisee who was a Wierzbicka enthusiast, so I had to read through a bunch of this stuff. I found it pretty deadly, personally, but it does have the virtue of being carefully thought out and relentlessly pursued. Wrong? yes, but silly? no.
    – Greg Lee
    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:01
  • @GregLee Why deadly? I admit it makes a lot of sense to me.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:08
  • The effort to characterize meanings with a much reduced vocabulary produces very lengthy results that are trying to read through, especially when one thinks they are pointless. Suppose you can define everything with only a few words to work with ... so what? The idea doesn't lead in any interesting direction. I think it is just a more sophisticated version of the old Basic English idea.
    – Greg Lee
    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:22
  • 1
    @Masacroso There's a lot of articles you can read if you are interested, but don't dismiss their research so quickly. It is quite deliberate that both GOOD and BAD exist - the research shows that both are needed. NOT BAD is of course not equivalent to GOOD.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 8, 2015 at 10:57
  • 1
    @Masacroso As are you friend ;)
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 8, 2015 at 11:32

As a starter for constructed languages I recommend Detlev Blanke, Internationale Plansprachen.

But your subquestions seem to go in other directions ... called "language universals" in linguistics and being a highly controversial topic. For simple grammars, look at Creole Languages.

Basic vocabulary is hard to define---but you may want to look at Basic English for a try. Once a language is used everywhere in life it develops a rich vocabulary for everything because it needs to do so. There is no such thing as a "smallest living language" (in biology, some bacteria with (almost) minimal genome exist in the wild, but that's a different story).


definitely read Umberto Eco's book on the Search for A Perfect Language; he specifically discusses the approaches of Bishop Wilkins and others to obtain a perfect language whose words are (supposedly) logically derived from the order of things themselves.

  • 1
    And it becomes clear in reading the book that such a project is totally chimeric. There is no such thing as "pure a priori", since it presupposes universal and identical perception and cognition, as well as universal logic. These things don't exist. You may in fact be able to describe your own perfect a priori language, but it will describe only the perception, cognition, and logic that you personally have constructed, and there's no reason to suppose it would describe anyone else's. Everybody builds their own brain, mind, and language, after all.
    – jlawler
    Jun 7, 2015 at 14:49
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    @jlawler I think OP is using a priori in the more specific sense of "a conlang not based on any natural language or languages". Jun 7, 2015 at 20:40
  • Oh, like Heinlein's Speedtalk.
    – jlawler
    Jun 7, 2015 at 21:12

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