For hundreds of years people have been frustrated by the lack of a single international language. A Frenchman spends years learning German, only to find that he can't talk to an American who's studied Spanish, and neither can talk to a Russian who's mastered Chinese. All their years of study were wasted! If only there were one language that all could learn!
Out of this frustration, many artificial languages were proposed: the bad Esperanto with its pointless adjective agreement and case endings, the fine Interlingua, and many more. But none caught on.
Then in 1930, C.K. Ogden proposed a tiny version of English: just 850 words that could be learned in a few months and used to say anything. He called it Basic English (BE).
There were many advantages: there were already hundreds of millions of native English speakers and more who had studied it. English grammar is entirely free of gender endings, almost free of case endings, and nearly free of conjugations (talk, talks, talked, will talk, has talked, talking -- vs fifty forms for every verb in Spanish). Moreover, there are very few irregular verbs (am-is-are-was-were-be-being-been) vs whole books of them in Spanish. English is the easiest language to learn, at least for everyday use.
People were excited. It was demonstrated that practically anything could indeed be said with these few words -- novels and scientific papers were written in BE. Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to push for it. Foreigners found they could indeed learn it as quickly as advertised. They liked it (except for the spelling, which Ogden refused to agree to reform.) The world realized that instead of spending years learning one foreign language that would let them communicate with just some people, they could instead spend just three months on this system and then talk to everybody. What a wonderful promise!
But Churchill gave it to a government committee of incompetents
and it died. Not entirely -- you can still get books about it
from libraries. But the great push for it just withered.
I hope to revive it!
One great problem with any International English idea is our wretched English spelling, which does not agree with the way words are pronounced. So those who memorize the spelling are likely to think it represents the pronunciation and go around saying K-nife and K-now. And those learning to talk right will write "nife" and "no", and be laughed at. George Bernard Shaw tried to get Ogden to include reformed spelling in the system but he balked, saying one change at a time was enough and that if learners wrote in reformed they might be considered ignorant.
Ah, but with BTRSPL they can write in reformed and convert their
work to standard in moments. With such a small vocabulary we
can be sure every legitimate word is included in the dictionary.
Or they can take a BE novel in standard spelling (Traditional
Orthography or TO) and convert it in minutes to a
rational system, and read it for practice. I suspect that
learning to write in a consistent spelling system will cut a
third of the time out of learning BE, and greatly improve
pronunciation as well, since the letters will represent the real
sounds. Basic English will become twice as easy and attractive,
and this time it may take off!
This file contains a list of the Basic words, plus a summary of the rules and examples of BE writing. It also contains the BTRSPL spelling converter program and dictionaries for instant conversion between TO and reformed spelling. And it holds a list of books that teach BE.
Because the dictionaries contain only the BE words and their varients(e.g. plurals), an English speaker can practice writing BE and the program will tell him which "illegal" words he used (he just converts his file and then looks at the list of words the program did not find in the dictionary, saved in a file called UNTRAN.)
A non-English-speaker can download the file and begin to study BE (preferably in conjunction with a book in his own language!) He can write in a logical, consistent spelling system and convert his work to perfect standard English spelling, acceptable to everyone, all in moments. BE teachers can use it to help their students learn faster. (Teachers of regular English for foreigners may wish to consider downloading the regular BTRSPL program with full 40,000 word dictionaries and using it the same way. I recommend the ALC "American" spelling reform for those who do not yet know English spelling. It is more regular and phonetic than Cut Spelling, and far more easily read (in unconverted form) than ANJeL or Truespel.)
Thus the program can help everyone learn BE faster.
Ogden was criticized on several points but stubbornly refused to change his system. So others invented similar systems, most with a few more words, particularly verbs. One was Little English, by Janet Rankin Aiken, which I have never been able to find anywhere. Another was compiled for the ACCESS program, but I am told by one of the principals that the resulting word list was lost. Please contact me if you know of any such systems.
Here is a Summary of Ogden's Rules ------->
Plurals end in 's.' (animals, shoes, hands)
Derivatives in 'er,' 'ing,' 'ed' from 300 nouns (doged love, a loving dog, a lover)
Adverbs in 'ly' from qualifiers. (most, mostly)
Degree with 'more' and 'most.' (good, more good, most good [not good, better best] )
Questions by inversion and 'do.' (Do you see?)
Operators and pronouns conjugate in full. (he, him, his)
Measurement, numerals, currency, calendar, and international terms in English form.
And here is an Alphabetic Listing of Ogden's 850 List----->
(Ogden actually listed the words by functional categories in a table and in sufficiently small type so that they could be printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. One of his creative ideas, of which he had many, was that business people would include the sheet in their correspondence and thus spread the use of BASIC.)
a able about account acid across act addition adjustment advertisement after again against agreement air awake all almost among amount amusement and angle angry animal answer ant any apparatus apple approval arch argument art arm army as at attach attempt attention attraction authority automatic
baby back bad bag balance ball band base basin basket bath be beautiful bed because bee before behavior belief bell bent berry best between bird birth bit bite bitter black blade blood blow blue board boat body boiling bone book boot bottle box boy brain brake branch brass bread breath bridge brick bright broken brother brown brush bucket building bulb burn burst business but butter button by
cake camera canvas card care carriage cart cat cause certain chain chalk chance change cheap cheese chemical chest chief chin church circle clean clear clock cloth cloud coal coat cold collar color comb come comfort committee common company comparison complete complex condition connection conscious control cook copper copy cord cork cotton cough country cover cow crack credit crime cruel cry cup curtain current curve cushion cut
damage danger dark daughter day dead dear death debt decison deep degree delicate dependent design desire destruction detail development disease different digestion direction discovery discussion disgust distance distribution division dirty do dog door doubt down drain drawer dress drop dry drink driving dust
ear early east earth edge education effect egg elastic electric end engine enough equal error even event ever every example exchange existence expansion experience expert eye
face fact fall false family far farm fat father fear feather feeble feeling female fertile fiction field fight finger fish fire first fixed flag flame flat flight fly floor flower fold food foolish foot for force fork form forward fowl frame free frequent friend from front fruit full future
garden general get girl give glass glove go goat gold good government grain grass great green grey grip group growth guide gun
hair hammer hand hanging happy harbor hard harmony hat hate have he head healthy hearing heart heat help here high history hole hollow hook hope horn horse hospital hour house how humor
i ice idea if ill important impulse in increase industry ink insect instrument insurance interest invention iron island
jelly jewel join journey judge jump
keep kettle key kick kind kiss knee knife knot knowledge
land language last late laugh law lead leaf learning leather left leg let letter level library lift light like limit line linen lip liquid list little living lock long look loose loss loud love low
machine make male man manager map mark market married mass match material may meal measure meat medical meeting memory metal middle military milk mind mine minute mist mixed moon money monkey month morning mother motion mountain mouth move much muscle music
nail name narrow nation natural near necessary neck need needle nerve net new news night no noise normal north nose not note now number nut
observation of off offer office oil old on only open operation opinion opposite or orange order organization ornament other out oven over owner
page pain paint paper parallel parcel past paste part payment peace pen pencil person physical picture pig pin pipe place plane plant plate play please pleasure plough pocket point poison polish political poor porter position possible pot potato powder power present price print prison private probable process produce profit property prose protest public pull pump punishment purpose push put
quality question quick quiet quite
rail rain range rat rate ray reaction reading ready reason receipt record red regret regular relation religion request representative respect responsible reward rhythm rice right ring river road rod roll roof room rough round rub rule run rush
sad safe sail salt same sand say scale school science scissors screw sea seat second secret secretary see seed seem selection self send sense separate serious servant sex shade shake shame sharp sheep shelf ship shirt shock shoe short shut side sign silk silver simple sister size skin skirt sky sleep slip slope slow small smash smell smile smoke smooth snake sneeze snow so soap society sock soft solid some son song sort sound soup south spring spoon sponge spade special space stage stamp star start statement station steam steel stem step stick sticky stiff still stitch stocking stomach stone stop store story straight strange street stretch strong structure square substance such sudden sugar suggestion summer sun support surprise sweet swim system
table tail take talk tall taste tax teaching tendency test than that the then theory there thick thin thing this though thought thread throat through thumb thunder ticket tight till time tin tired to toe together tomorrow tongue tooth top touch town trade train transport tray tree trick trouble trousers true turn twist
umbrella under unit up use
value verse very vessel view violent voice
waiting walk wall war warm wash waste watch water wave wax way weather week weight well west wet wheel when where while whip whistle white who why wide will wind window wine wing winter wire wise with woman wood wool word work worm wound writing wrong
year yellow yes yesterday you young
[Alan Mole adds]
In addition there were 50 "international words" such as "radio",etc. that are the same in practically every language, and therefore did not have to be learned but could legitimately be used, and 50 more that were tentatively considered. Some of these last 50 were outdated, but I have added the full first 50 and most of the second set. And I have included such adjectival derivitives as "programmed" and programming" from program. Also, he added numbers, days of the week, months, units of money, and titles. Further still, Ogden added but I have not included hundreds of technical words for specialized fields such as physics. The extra words that I have included are:
alcohol aluminum automobile bank banking bar beer calendar check chemist chocolate chorus cigarette club coffee colony dance dancing engineered engineer engineering gas hotels hotel influenza lava madam nickle opera orchestra paraffin park passport patent phonograph piano police post programmed programming programer program propaganda radio restaurant sir sport taxi tea telegram telegraph telephone terrace theater tobacco university whisky zinc bus ballet cafe circus dynamite encyclopedia inferno macaroni malaria olive omelette paradise referendum rheumatism salad sardine toast torpedo vanilla violin visa vodka volt algebra arithmetic biology chemistry geography geology geometry mathematics physics physiology zoology college embassy empire imperial king museum president prince princess queen royal autobus dollar one two three four five first second third fourth fifth hundred thousand million monday tuesday wednesday thursday friday saturday sunday january february march april june july august september october november december
[Note] No Basic books are still in print, but they may be obtained at used book stores and libraries.
Ogden, Charles Kay,
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