This is a follow-on from a previous question. I've done a bit of research and have determined that I'm interested in creating as expressive a language I can with a limited set of concepts, to be spoken by creatures with a proto-human level of intelligence. This is fairly broad, so I've settled on the following concepts. Anything below is an "admissible concept" within the language:
- Naming a place
- Naming a thing
- Naming oneself/others/the group
- Now, before, later
- sense (as in, see or hear or smell. To be followed by an action to indicate which one)
- Obtain (as in collect/get/take/give depending on context)
So, for example:
(Group) I (obtain) berries - in context, if I am currently holding berries, then I mean to announce to the group that I have obtained berries. If I am not holding berries, then I mean that I am going to get them.
You (sense) animal - a question, "do you (sense) the animal?", to which the response is either disagree/no or I (sense) with action indicating eyes, ears, or nose.
You (obtain) berries - an order. Either means "go get berries" if there aren't any around, or "give me your berries" if you currently have berries.
So, I'm looking for some ideas about what types of concepts can be expressed in such a language, and what can't be expressed.
EDIT: I've added a few more concepts that I agree would make this language much more expressive without too much of a stretch of the imagination.
Possession: this works as a modifier to a thing: Berries-mine or Berries-group etc.
Quantifiers: they only have the idea of many, few, and some. Many is used to indicate...many...obviously. For instance, to communicate that you found a place with many berries that we should all go to. Few is similar, to indicate that there are not many of a thing and it may not be worth going to. Some is used to modify (obtain), thereby indicating sharing or barter. I can ask you for some of your berries, implying that you can keep some, or I can offer you some of my meat for some of your berries.
Good/happy - useful for social bonding, as well as to indicate general agreement
Bad/sad - used for modification of run/hide, which is now a distinct concept. So bad-(run/hide) would indicate danger (there is a bad thing from which we must run and hide), while animal-(run/hide) could indicate that the animal we are hunting has escaped. Bad/sad also allows us to express emotional disagreement without challenge, again for social reasons. If I ask you to give me some berries and you disagree, I can indicate that this made me sad, but not challenge you aggressively.
The language is clearly based on roots and modifiers. I can, for instance, disagree with you non-aggressively by just disagreeing with you, but I challenge you aggressively by saying disagree-attack.
I think otherwise I'm going to keep the language concepts as-is, and try to see how many complex concepts I can come up with. It actually might be fun to write a small story entirely from the perspective of one of these creatures, perhaps to describe a hunt or something, to get a feel for it and for how it will work in the larger narrative.