Sunday, September 23, 2012

Basic English

According to the Oxford Dictionary Online, there are about a quarter of a million words in the English language. That's a lot of words! But how many of them do we use on a daily basis? One man took the challenge to find out. Charles K. Ogden condensed the enormous English language to a mere 850 words. These Basic words became the foundation of "Basic English" a planned language which was designed to make English an International Auxiliary Language. 

Today, English is spoken around the world as a second language in almost every country abroad. English truly is an International Auxiliary Language. The problem is that English is difficult to learn with complex grammar rules, irregular verbs in the past tense and lack of conjugation (not totally lacking but minimized) which many languages use, as well as a definite and indefinite article. 

Grammar was greatly reduced to the following table: 

    Ogden's rules of grammar for Basic English extend the 850 word vocabulary to the breadth needed to describe objects and events in the environment and more smoothly communicate with people.
  1. Plurals are formed with a trailing "S". The normal exceptions of standard English also apply, notably "ES" and "IES".
  2. There are four derivatives for the 300 nouns: -"ER" and -"ING", and two adjectives, -"ING" and -"ED".
  3. Adverbs use -"LY" from qualifiers.
  4. Degree is expressed with "MORE" and "MOST". Be prepared to find -"ER" and -"EST" in common usage.
  5. Negative adjectives are formed with "UN"-
  6. Questions are formed by inversion and by "DO".
  7. Operators and pronouns conjugate in full.
  8. Compound words may be combined from two nouns (milkman) or a noun and a directive (sundown).
  9. Measurement, numerals, currency, calendar, and international terms are in English form.
  10. Technical expressions required and customary for the immediate task are included in the locally used form.

      A list of the 850 words in categories can be found here

      Also established is a list of compound words which can be found here

      A list of expanded rules more apt for the intermediate speaker was developed here

      Even the Bible has been translated into Basic English! Although one does not get as much deep-theology from this translation, it does serve a need to allow a learner to begin reading and understanding the basics of the Word of God! New Testament and Old Testament.  

      Here is a sample of the Babel Text in Basic English: 

      And all the earth had one language and one tongue.
      And it came about that in their wandering from the east, they came to a stretch of flat country in the land of Shinar, and there they made their living-place.
      And they said one to another, Come, let us make bricks, burning them well. And they had bricks for stone, putting them together with sticky earth.
      And they said, Come, let us make a town, and a tower whose top will go up as high as heaven; and let us make a great name for ourselves, so that we may not be wanderers over the face of the earth.
      And the Lord came down to see the town and the tower which the children of men were building.
      And the Lord said, See, they are all one people and have all one language; and this is only the start of what they may do; and now it will not be possible to keep them from any purpose of theirs.
      Come, let us go down and take away the sense of their language, so that they will not be able to make themselves clear to one another.
      So the Lord God sent them away into every part of the earth; and they gave up building their town.
      So it was named Babel, because there the Lord took away the sense of all languages; and from there the Lord sent them away over all the face of the earth.

      So it is possible to learn to speak English with only a vocabulary of 850 words and communicate with anyone!  You can find a lot of information about Basic English here on the main website for Basic.