First of all I apologize but my English skills are by far below the complexity of the question I need to ask. I am not a specialist and my question is not related to a single language. I would like to identify the subset of "words" or maybe better, of concepts, that once learned or labeled, for their semantic or logical relevance, are "enough" to create a meaningful description of all the other words in a language. If we call these words or concepts primitives (archetypes), how many of them do we need in a basic dictionary? They basically allow a language to becomes self explicative. I found a question about circular defined words, but that question seems more based on a statistical evaluation of words in a dictionary. I would like to do something similar but to focus on the semantic aspect, on concepts, and then extract the words. This could allow to avoid the "minimum feedback arc set problem" coming from the attempt to do a kind of reverse engineering of the dictionary. Thank you in advance.
I would say the most frequent words in a given language can be considered core words. Nation (1990) showed that 1000 words account for 85% of spoken speech, for example. Sometimes people call this an example of the Pareto principle (like in this blog).
You ask for a subset of words that "are enough to create a meaningful description of all the other words in a language". I think 1000 words is enough. Think about it: it seems like you could always take some non frequent word like "toothbrush" and reduce it to: that thing you use to clean the white things in your mouth.
Nation, I. S. P. (1990) Teaching and learning vocabulary, Boston: Heinle and Heinle.
This is of course highly debated, but some linguists would answer yes, there is a small set of words/concepts common to all natural human languages. The major theory currently representing this view is the Natural Semantic Metalanguage, which posits that there are around 66 core 'semantic primes' which are both irreducible and universal. These primes are usually words, but some will in some languages be expressed by affixes or set phrases.