About the Concepticon

Concept List and Concept Sets

A concept list is a selection of meanings that is deemed interesting by some scholars to compare lexemes between languages. There are very many different reasons why a particular meaning might be included into such a list, and we do not have any preference here for a particular set. The only goal we have here is to link meanings that are found in more than one list, with the goal to be able to compare various datasets, collected on the basis of different concept lists. In practice, we take any concept list, and reduce it to the main information as found in a particular source. Typically, a concept list will have concept labels in one or a few widespread languages, either major scientific languages (like English, Russian, or Spanish) or major languages from the region in which the data is collected (i.e. Hausa for the Chadic list from Kraft (1981)). Furthermore, most concept lists have some kind of numerical identification (ID), sometimes simply an ordering number, which we will also include. Any other information that we consider important will also be extracted from the sources (e.g. semantic field from the World Loanword Database, WOLD).

Most importantly, every concept in every concept list is linked to a concept set, i.e. a set of concepts sharing the same definition. Depending how one looks at it, it is either very hard to define meanings, or very easy. It is very easy, because just anybody can stand up and propose whatever definition s/he wants to define in whatever way deemed interesting. It is very hard to actually come up with definitions that are useful for widespread application across many different languages. In our Concepticon, we link concept sets by assigning simple relations like "broader" and "narrower". Yet even these simple relations can get very complex, as you can see from the network that shows the major kinship relations which are linked to the concept set "SIBLING" at the start page. If no suitably defined concept set exists, we simply add a new one. The combined list of all concept sets is our "Concepticon" in the sense of Poornima and Good (2010).

To each concept set, we add a rough gloss, but this is not supposed to be taken as the definition, just as a convenience abbreviation that offers further clarification as to what concept we try to describe. An attempt to give a more precise definition of each concept set is made by taking definitions from different sources, but also by adding them ourselves, if no valid definition is available. For convenience, we also include semantic fields from the World Loanword Database (extended by us for new meanings that are not included there) and ontological categories. The ontological categories are mostly added for practical reasons of allowing us to order and link the concepts more quickly. They should not be taken as a serious semantic classification of the concept lists.

For many concepts, additional meta-data, including links to BabelNet and OmegaWiki has been collected within the Concepticon project. This data now moved to NoRaRe, the Database of Cross-Linguistic Norms, Ratings, and Relations for Words and Concepts.


Our Concepticon is an ongoing community effort. Read our contribution guidelines to find out how to become involved.


The Concepticon resource is the result of ongoing efforts which date back to early 2012. Without the generous support of many different funding agencies, we would not have been able to carry out this research. The table below lists, who has profited during which time periods from what research projects awarded by which funding agency.

Period Grant Name Grant Type Funding Agency Grant Number Beneficiaries
2022-2024 CALC³ Max Planck Society JML
2012-2014 Quantitative modelling of historical-comparative linguistics ERC Starting Grant European Research Council 240816 MC, JML
2015-2016 Vertical and lateral aspects of Chinese dialect history Research Fellowship German Research Council 261553824 JML
2017-2022 Computer-Assisted Language Comparison ERC Starting Grant European Research Council 206320 JML
2012-2016 Discovering Trans-New Guinea: Revealing the history of New Guinea ARC Discovery Projects Australian Research Council DE 120101954 SJG
2015-2022 ARC Center of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language Center of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language Australian Research Council CE140100041 SJG
2014-2017 Glottobank Project Marsden Fund Royal Society of New Zealand 13-UOA-121 SJG, JML, RF
2014-2021 Glottobank Project Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human history SJG, JML, RF
2022-now Glottobank Project Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology SJG, JML, RF
2014-2017 CLLD Project Max Planck Society RF