A priori (languages)

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This article is about constructed languages. For other uses of the term "a priori", see a priori (disambiguation).

An a priori language (from Latin a priori, "from the former") is any constructed language of which all or a number of features are not based on existing languages, but rather invented or elaborated as to work in a different way or to allude different purposes. This contrasts to a posteriori constructed languages. Some a priori languages are designed to be international auxiliary languages that remove what could be considered an unfair learning advantage for native speakers of a source language that would otherwise exist for a posteriori languages. Other, known as philosophical or taxonomic languages, try to categorize their vocabulary, either to express an underlying philosophy or to make it easier to recognize new vocabulary.

Examples of a priori languages[edit]


Schematic constructed languages, of which most are designed to be international auxiliary, are those with a usual distinctive feature compared to naturalistic languages (those largely imitating natural languages): a more regular and precise grammatical system to avoid ambiguities and difficulty in studying and understanding them. In the other hand, their vocabulary is almost always a posteriori, which makes them only half a priori. Well-known examples include Esperanto, Lojban, Lingwa de planeta, and Glosa.


There have been many languages constructed to test linguistic hypotheses (such as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) and/or to explore innovative or invented linguistic features. They are therefore necessarily designed with a priori features. Examples include Ithkuil, Kotava, Lojban (and its predecessor Loglan, both of which are also schematic), and even the fictional-setting Láadan.


Most artistic languages, i.e. those created for amusement or to serve as natural languages of fictional worlds, are largely a priori in both vocabulary and grammar. Among classical "fictional natural languages" are Klingon from the science-fiction franchise Star Trek and the languages created by fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Other examples include Dothraki and Valyrian from Game of Thrones, Atlantean from Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Kēlen by Sylvia Sotomayor and aUI by W. John Weilgart. Láadan is both experimental and artistic.


  • Alan Libert, A Priori Artificial Languages, (Languages of the World 24. Munich: Lincom Europa, 2000). ISBN 3-89586-667-9.