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What Is a Philosophical Language?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

A philosophical language is a constructed language that aims to demonstrate a philosophical idea through its structure. This means that the grammar and construction of the language relate to a basic philosophical principle. In some cases, this may be a way of reordering the mind to match a philosophy. Projects of this type have also been used to attempt to identify the language of the Garden of Eden, although this has fallen out of fashion in academic circles. Making a philosophical language requires an understanding of linguistics and a practical approach to philosophy.

There have been many examples of philosophical language projects throughout history. Many of these projects were designed to accomplish specific goals, such as simplifying communication or expressing certain new concepts. For this reason, a philosophical language is unlikely to have much in common with other languages of this type. Each new language is governed by unique philosophical principles.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Some of the most important languages of this type were created to address the needs of specific groups. Toki Pona, for example, is related to Taoism, and Láadan is a feminist project. When a language project is created and the language in question is adopted by speakers, practical changes to the structure of the language can be made in order to facilitate communication. In theory, a constructed language that becomes a native language for a group of people will continue to evolve over time and may shape the consciousness of the speakers.

Certain groups believe that a philosophical language has the capacity to achieve a communicatory perfection that is not found in nature. This ideal language would, theoretically, access objective reality in a different manner than the language of humans. The pursuit of an ideal language has fallen out of favor among many philosophers and linguists because of the religious basis of this project. Even so, fascination with the way a philosophy can be represented through linguistic forms continues to be of interest both to professional and hobbyist linguists.

In order to make a philosophical language, a person must have a deep understanding of linguistics. A language of this type cannot simply come up with new words that replace words that exist in another language, nor can this type of language draw from the roots of other languages. There are many different possible word construction strategies and grammatical devices that can be used to create parallels between philosophy and language. Design in this type of language must be coherent at all levels, including vocabulary and syntax.

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      Woman standing behind a stack of books