We think of the current 118 chemical elements of the periodic table — oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, etc.– as constituting the basic building blocks of matter from which all other substances are made. What might be the analogous components in the world of human thought and expression?
Suppose one could take all the languages of the world and distill out a set of the most basic common denominators – the essential semantic elements that cannot be further divided into a more basic form? …from which all other more complex concepts are composed? Is it possible to find these most fundamental and irreducible elements of meaning? What would they be? Could one build all other concepts from just a few basic ones? They have been identified in the world of matter. Could they also be found in the world of the mind?
aUI is really an innovative experiment with this premise. It is built upon such a proposed set of near-universal semantic primes, or elements of meaning, that are combined intuitively to create miniature definitions of essential meaning. The core idea of it is that sound, symbol and meaning are aligned, and that therefore, the language is more intuitive and aligns the conscious and unconscious mind [see the Philosophy section for more]. Weilgart’s unique goal was to build an intrinsic relationship between the phonetic, morphologic, and semantic aspects of language so that words with similar sounds and symbols would also have similar meanings. Additionally, and again unique among the hundreds of existing constructed languages, the symbols and sounds would have some iconic relation to reality. They are designed to represent a salient aspect of the real world.
As an a priori philosophical language, aUI’s vocabulary is not based on any existing languages. Conventional languages are culturally constructed over centuries, somewhat haphazardly, according to chance, time, social change and geographic patterns. Dr. Weilgart was not alone is his concern that “conventional” language is messy, unclear, and in many cases, distorts meaning. The history of the search for a constructed language that is “more perfect” goes back, in the Western tradition, at least as far as Plato, and was also considered by Dante, Descartes and many other Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars. A great history can be found in Umberto Eco’s The Search for the Perfect Language (1995).
aUI has 31 morpheme-phonemes, each with an associated meaning, or sememe. A morpheme is the smallest grammatical unit, or the smallest linguistic unit of form that has meaning. A phoneme is the smallest distinguishable unit of sound. A sememe, then, is a proposed minimal unit of meaning. As atomic meaning it cannot be broken down any further.
For instance, two dots joined together with an arc b make up the morpheme for ‘Together’; its phoneme ⟨b⟩, is a bilabial stop, pronounced with the lips pressed together. So here we see symbol, sound, and meaning working in the same way — Together. ‘Light’, a source of light with rays spreading upward i, is pronounced with a short ⟨i⟩, the brightest, highest-frequency sound, while the soundwave ‘Sound,’ I, is pronounced with a longer ⟨I⟩, because sound travels more slowly than light. This is the sort of intuitive symbology Weilgart used to create the language.