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.
- 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.
- Plurals are formed with a trailing "S". The normal exceptions of standard English also apply, notably "ES" and "IES".
- There are four derivatives for the 300 nouns: -"ER" and -"ING", and two adjectives, -"ING" and -"ED".
- Adverbs use -"LY" from qualifiers.
- Degree is expressed with "MORE" and "MOST". Be prepared to find -"ER" and -"EST" in common usage.
- Negative adjectives are formed with "UN"-
- Questions are formed by inversion and by "DO".
- Operators and pronouns conjugate in full.
- Compound words may be combined from two nouns (milkman) or a noun and a directive (sundown).
- Measurement, numerals, currency, calendar, and international terms are in English form.
- 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.
|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.