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The neurophysiology of cells and tissues are monitored electrophysiologically and optically in diverse experiments and species, ranging from flies to humans. Understanding the brain requires integration of data across this diversity, and thus these data must be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). This requires a standard language for data and metadata that can coevolve with neuroscience. We describe design and implementation principles for a language for neurophysiology data. Our open-source software (Neurodata Without Borders, NWB) defines and modularizes the interdependent, yet separable, components of a data language. We demonstrate NWB's impact through unified description of neurophysiology data across diverse modalities and species. NWB exists in an ecosystem, which includes data management, analysis, visualization, and archive tools. Thus, the NWB data language enables reproduction, interchange, and reuse of diverse neurophysiology data. More broadly, the design principles of NWB are generally applicable to enhance discovery across biology through data FAIRness.