What is the least amount of words you need to be able to form any other word?

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why does the definition of one word recall other n words and m definitions?

  • Attempts at a rigorous semantics of definitions will inevitably have to bottom out on a list of Semantic primes, a set of concepts that have to be taken as givens rather than defined themselves.
  • Identifying that list of primes, and using them for definitions, has not been a popular pastime. It’s work. Natural semantic metalanguage is an admirable initiative in that direction.
  • Unfortunately, NSM also wanted to use those primes in human-intelligible definitions. That makes things dirtier. The initial Spartan beauty of Anna Wierzbicka’s Lingua Mentalis had 14 primes; now it’s in the 60s.

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