- Basic English
Basic English, also known as Simple English, is an English-based controlled language created (in essence as a simplified subset of English) by linguist and philosopher Charles Kay Ogden as an international auxiliary language, and as an aid for teaching English as a Second Language. It was presented in Ogden's book Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar (1930). Capitalised, BASIC is sometimes taken as an acronym that stands for British American Scientific International Commercial.
Ogden's Basic, and the concept of a simplified English, gained its greatest publicity just after the Allied victory in the Second World War as a means for world peace. Although Basic English was not built into a program, similar simplifications have been devised for various international uses. Ogden's associate I. A. Richards promoted its use in schools in China. More recently, it has influenced the creation of Voice of America's Special English for news broadcasting, and Simplified English, another English-based controlled language designed to write technical manuals.
Ogden tried to simplify English while keeping it normal for native speakers, by specifying grammar restrictions and a controlled small vocabulary which makes an extensive use of paraphrasis. Most notably, Ogden allowed only 18 verbs, which he called "operators". His General Introduction says "There are no 'verbs' in Basic English", with the underlying assumption that, as noun use in English is very straightforward but verb use/conjugation is not, the elimination of verbs would be a welcome simplification.
Ogden's word lists include only word roots, which in practice are extended with the defined set of affixes and the full set of forms allowed for any available word (noun, pronoun, or the limited set of verbs).
The 850 core words of Basic English are found in Wiktionary's Appendix:Basic English word list. This core is theoretically enough for everyday life. However, Ogden prescribed that any student should learn an additional 150-word list for everyday work in some particular field, by adding a word list of 100 words particularly useful in a general field (e.g., science, verse, business, etc.), along with a 50-word list from a more specialised subset of that general field, to make a basic 1000-word vocabulary for everyday work and life.
Moreover, Ogden assumed that any student already should be familiar with (and thus may only review) a core subset of around 350 "international" words. Therefore, a first-level student should graduate with a core vocabulary of around 1350 words. A realistic general core vocabulary could contain 1500 words (the core 850 words, plus 350 international words, and 300 words for the general fields of trade, economics, and science). A sample 1500-word vocabulary is included in the Simple English Wikipedia.
Ogden provided lists to extend the general 1500-word vocabulary to make a 2000-word list, enough for a "standard" English level. This 2000-word vocabulary represents "what any learner should know". At this level students could start to move on their own.
- Make plurals with an "S" on the end of the word. If there are special ways to make a plural word, such as "ES" and "IES", use them.
- There are two word endings to change each of the 150 adjectives: -"ER" and -"EST".
- There are two word endings to change the verb word endings, -"ING" and -"ED".
- Make qualifiers from adverbs by adding -"LY".
- Talk about amounts with "MORE" and "MOST." Use and know -"ER" and -"EST."
- Make opposite adjectives with "UN"-
- Make questions with the opposite word order, and with "DO".
- Operators and pronouns conjugate as in normal English.
- Make combined words (compounds) from two nouns (for example "milkman") or a noun and a directive (sundown).
- Measures, numbers, money, days, months, years, clock time, and international words are in English forms. E.g. Date/Time: 20 May 1972 at 21:00
- Use the words of an industry or science. For example, in this grammar, some special words are for teaching languages, and not part of Basic English: plural, conjugate, noun, adjective, adverb, qualifier, operator, pronoun, and directive.
Like all international auxiliary languages (or IALs), Basic English may be criticised as unavoidably based on personal preferences, and thus, paradoxically, inherently divisive. Moreover, like all natural language based IALs, Basic is subject to criticism as unfairly biased towards the native speaker community.
As a teaching aid for English as a Second Language, Basic English has been criticised for the choice of the core vocabulary and for its grammatical constraints.
In 1944, readability expert Rudolf Flesch published an article in Harper's Magazine, "How Basic is Basic English?" in which he claimed, "It's not basic, and it's not English." The basic complaint was that the vocabulary is too restricted, and, as a result, the text ends up being awkward and more difficult than necessary. He also notes that the words in the Basic vocabulary were arbitrarily selected, and there have been no empirical studies showing that it makes language simpler.
In the novel The Shape of Things to Come, published in 1933, H. G. Wells depicted Basic English as the lingua franca of a new elite which after a prolonged struggle succeeds in uniting the world and establishing a totalitarian world government. In the future world of Wells' vision, virtually all members of humanity know this language.
In his story "Gulf", science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein used a constructed language, in which every Basic English word is replaced with a single phoneme, as an appropriate means of communication for a race of genius supermen.
- Plain English
- Simplified English
- International English
- General Service List
- Academic word list
- Bible in Basic English
- Controlled vocabulary
- ^ Brutt-Griffler, Evans Davies, English and Ethnicity, Palgrave Macmillan,2006
- ^ Time Magazine. Dec. 31, 1945. Education: Globalingo
- ^ Edmond H Weiss The Elements of International English Style, pp. 17-18, M. E. Sharpe, 2005 ISBN 978-0765615725
- ^ A good summary in Bill Templer: Towards a People's English: Back to BASIC in EIL Humanising Language Teaching.
- ^ See the list of words which are assumed and not counted for details.
- ^ Ogden's "International Word" List - Alphabetic
- ^ Ogden's Basic English Next Steps
- ^ Ogden's Basic English Combined Word Lists
- ^ "Rules of Grammar". January 1, 1996. http://ogden.basic-english.org/rules.html. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- ^ Rick Harrison, Farewell to Auxiliary Languages
- ^ For instance, a sample quotation from the auxlang mailing list archives and another from noted linguist Robert A. Hall, Jr..
- ^ For instance, by proponents of Essential World English. See a summary of EWE for instance and, again, the linguist Robert A. Hall, Jr..
- ^ Flesch, R. F. "How Basic is Basic English?" Harper's Magazine, March 1944. pp. 339-343.
- ^ Illich, Ivan; Barry Sanders (1988) (in English language). ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind. San Francisco: North Point Press. pp. 109. ISBN 0-86547-291-2. "The satirical force with which Orwell used Newspeak to serve as his portrait of one of those totalitarian ideas that he saw taking root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere can be understood only if we remember that he speaks with shame about a belief that he formerly held... From 1942 to 1944, working as a colleague of William Empson's, he produced a series of broadcasts to India written in Basic English, trying to use its programmed simplicity, as a Tribune article put it, "as a sort of corrective to the oratory of statesmen and publicists." Only during the last year of the war did he write "Politics and the English Language," insisting that the defense of English language has nothing to do with the setting up of a Standard English.""
- ^ Heinlein, Robert A., "Gulf", in Assignment in Eternity, published by Signet Science Fiction (New American Library), 1953. Page 52-53: "It was possible to establish a one-to-one relationship with Basic English so that one phonetic symbol was equivalent to an entire word".
- I. A. Richards & Christine Gibson, Learning Basic English: A Practical Handbook for English-Speaking People, New York: W. W. Norton & Co. (1945)
- Basic English: A Protest, Joseph Albert Lauwerys, F. J. Daniels, Robert A. Hall Jr., London: Basic English Foundation, 1966. An answer to Robert A. Hall, Jr.'s criticism.
- Charles Kay Ogden, Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar, London: Paul Treber
- Charles Kay Ogden, Basic English and Grammatical Reform, Cambridge: The Orthological Institute. (1937).
- ogden.basic-english.org Ogden's books and wordlists online and several discussions.
- www.basic-english.org Ongoing project to support and update Ogden's Basic (with downloads).
- THE REFERENCE SHELF Vol. 17. No. 1 A discussion about Basic English, with supporters and critics.
- VOA News - Voice of America Special English - News Radio for English Learners
- Online tool which might help you to write Basic English texts - Detect words which are not in some dictionary. Ogden's Basic English dictionary list included.
- Essential World English - some criticisms of Basic English and suggestions for overcoming its problems
Word lists by frequency (and number of words) EnglishBasic English (850) • Simplified English (~875) • Globish (1.500) • General Service List (2.000) Add-onsAcademic Word List (570) Chinese JapaneseJapanese Language Proficiency Test / JLPT (8.009) Others
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