Basic Building Blocks of a Language

John Samuel

NOTE: Article in Progress

What are the fundamental words of any language? When can we say that we know a language and can communicate our feelings, thoughts and ideas? Branches of science like physics and chemistry have their own evolving standard models and any new comer to the field starts learning by understanding the key features of this model. Is a similar approach in language learning feasible? Is it possible for humans to be a polyglot easily? Can we reduce the language learning to some standard models?

Fundamental words: Basic building blocks of a language

When can we say we have learned a language? is it just speaking? is it writing? is it comprehension? or is it a combination of all of them together? given the number of new words that are being added to dictionary every year (or every few years) and some old or ancient words going to extinction, when can we say that we have mastered a language? Does mastering a language correspond to knowing all the words and their meanings? may be also using them? what do you mean by knowing a language? ability to comprehend and communicate? oral or written? what about gestures? is gestures part of the language or is it part of a locality?

but the context of the person is important as well? knowing a language for daily usage is very different from knowing a language in a scientific context? again it's totally different from literature context? (understanding various similies and metaphors)

but in any context, there must be some basic words? the fundamental words that are enough to communicate various processes, thoughts and emotions?

in any science (like physics, chemistry, recalling school days), we have some standard model based on which new molecules, compounds are made. These models evolve but yet there is an underlying model, yet I am still unable to find such a model for a language

why such a model is required? to make language learning easy? why do we need to make language learning easy? to be able to learn new language? why do we need to learn new languages? to preserve our endangered languages? why do we need to protect our endangered languages? because that's part of the evolution of human culture, that tells a story how our languages reached to the current point?


Motivation: learning a new language? making it easier?

First words to learn? universally necessary words? like I, you, them? emotions?

objects of daily life? variable from place to place?

what would be the first words of the primitive people? Starting from the five senses? or objects around them? Do we need to see how children learn? what are their first words? often parents compete to hear their role from the mouths of their children? mama? papa? ma? pa? mostly they have the illusion of hearing something they just want to hear

Standard model

Building a dictionary with the basic words? purpose: like all the words can be explained with these basic words?

Standard model for languages?

Standard model in Physics and Chemistry

start with any language? and identify the part of speech?

Preposition? Nouns? verbs? adverbs? adjective?

or generalize all languages? and hypothesize?

Closest attempt: Swadesh List

Constructed Languages

Constructed Languages? start from a new language? try to express in this new language all those expressions that we say with our regularly used language?

But conlangs need speakers. Limited number of speakers

Creating a conlang is interesting to understand about language and communication


  1. Part of speech
  2. Swadesh list
  3. Constructed language

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