Many conlangers have tried (and occasionally succeeded in) creating oligomorphemic¹ languages. What are the most minimalistic successful attempts? From this, can we extrapolate a lower bound?

¹also called oligosynthetic, a bit of a misnomer in my opinion

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Outside of Toki Pona, there haven't been any "majorly" successful attempts at making an oligomorphemic language — as far as I know. While derivational and inflectional morphology could be done away with (and its information load transferred to syntax I guess), the question is how many semantic morphemes is too few before a language becomes incomprehensibly vague.

I'm guessing the theoretical lowest lower limit is the set of 63 semantic primes of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (see also Goddard's Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis, 2010). Wierzbicka and Goddard propose that you could theoretically explain almost all necessary concepts by building up from this set of primes, and lacking ways to express some of them will leave you incapable of expressing at least a subset of all possible topics.

  • I would consider Vahn to be a successful attempt in that it has been successfully used both for complex translation challenges and also has been taught to another person and used for extensive personal communication. Source: L. L. Blumire, personal communciation Feb 6, 2018 at 23:58
  • Vahn has 33 clearly non further segmentable components, 36 usually components that are not usually segmented in analysis. Whether or not you wish to count this as a lower bound of morphemic content, or simply on mnemonic content, is a large matter of debate when it comes to the whole contept of Oligomorphemic languages. Feb 7, 2018 at 0:05
  • NSM now has 63 primes. The very first version of Wierzbicka's thinking had 14 (books.google.com.au/…), and she's been gradually expanding it ever since. Note though that a design criterion for NSM is conversational usability (applied generously), rather than mere semantic primitiveness. Mar 22, 2018 at 6:32

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