I am working on a "conlang", which is basically a fantasy language. I have collected 4,000-ish words in their "base" form (some we still need to find the base for, but they can be derived fairly easily based on the word's structure in the fantasy language). All these words are 1 syllable. I tried to collect words that capture the breadth and depth of knowledge, experience, and communication possibilities, and make those the 1 syllable words. Then I will have room for 130k 2 syllable words to handle more complex or specific concepts. But general concepts/words, there are about 4,000. Hopefully (well, the goal is), these 1 syllable words will capture the breadth and depth of human knowledge/experience. If not, I would like to find what I am missing and maybe trade some slots in the 1 syllable set for more important words.

Hence this question. Is there a database anywhere of "philosophical concepts" or concepts in general? Or something that at least covers all the concepts required to accurately represent the breadth and depth necessary to make sense of human experience on earth? That would be of great value in constructing a fantasy language lexicon, as I could make sure I have words for each specific concept.

  • In passing on the conlang aspects — it strikes me the syllabary-oriented approach makes maximal sense for a “character-oriented language”; maybe consider a root “kernel” of characters and inflections/declensions to get “theme and variation” of meanings
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 18:59
  • 1
    Have you heard of Leibniz's similar project called universal character? a form of pasigraphy, or ideographic language. This was to be based on a rationalised version of the 'principles' of Chinese characters... To achieve your "capture the breadth and depth of knowledge, experience, and communication possibilities" goal, in addition to your etymology, you may need algebraic rules or diagrammatic reasoning (once tried by Leibniz) to organize your syllable atoms. But unlike math, even 1 syllable has tons of meanings in different ways Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 22:32

1 Answer 1


Short Answer

The most likely source to help you will be FrameNet which organizes words into linguistic frames, a human-codified attempt to construct a web of meaning.

Long Answer

In philosophy, there's been claims about the possibility of an observational language by the logical positivists, for example, but the idea of linguistic universals is a controversial subject with some believing that they're not possible. There are two projects that I'm aware of that might be able to help you. The first is natural semantic metalanguage that is hosted here at Griffith University down under. The second is FrameNet hosted here at Berkeley, UC. Both of these projects chase after Leibniz's characteristica universalis to some extent. And both of these are projects that conceptualize information as highly semantic (SEP). CYC's work on codifying ontologies is also in this vein, but their data is proprietary, so you won't get a peak unless you can get a job there. Other than that, standard dictionaries such as the OED might help you, or perhaps Etymonline which shows the evolution of words, generally from PIE sources. Perhaps an esperanto dictionary might also be a good place to look for lists. WP has an article on esperanto vocabulary.

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