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Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Nuts and Bolts: Basic English.

What single thing will unify all humanity in respect and cooperation?

Well, a common language might be a start.

(The word might is important, here: I mean, having a common language doesn't even guarantee peace and harmony among one's own family, let alone the world.)

Basic English is a simplified form of the English language designed to be taught as a second language to...well, everyone who doesn't speak English as their first language. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea after Word War II, and it's still the basis for quite a lot of English-as-a-Second-Language teaching, especially in the Far East.

Basic English only has 850 core words, and only eighteen of them are verbs (though they aren't called verbs, but are lumped in with various other kinds of words such as prepositions and pronouns. In Basic English these are termed operators).

HERE is a list of the 850 core words of Basic English.

In addition to these, a student is supposed to know another two hundred words relevant to his own everyday work, and a further fifty in some relevant specialist subject. 


Lastly, it was assumed that he would already know another two hundred 'international' words: that is, words that are more or less the same the world over, such as beer, internet and piano.

As well as all these, there was an expectation that the vocabulary would edge up towards two thousand words which would deal with trade and economics and science.

This vocabulary still forms the basis of Simple English Wikipedia.

Of course Basic English is criticised for its choice of vocabulary, and for being restricted. 

But, I don't know: it's been quite useful to a lot of people, and its influence is still felt today.

I think we should probably put it down as a well-meaning try.

Word To Use Today: one from Basic English. The idea of Basic English came from C K Ogden's book Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar (1930), which he wrote with Ivor Richards. 

Both men were English.


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