is an attempted core subset
of the English language
created by Charles Kay Ogden
and described in his book Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar
(1930). The language is based on a simplified version of English
, in essence a subset of it. Basic English is used by groups who need to make complex books for international use, and by language schools that need to give people some knowledge of English in a short time.
Ogden did not put any words into Basic English that could be paraphrased with other words, and he attempted to make the words work for speakers of any other language. He put his set of words through a large number of tests and adjustments. He also simplified the grammar but tried to keep it normal for English users.
The concept gained its greatest publicity just after the Second World War as a tool for world peace. Although it was not built into a program, similar simplifications were devised for various international uses. I. A. Richards was a forceful advocate of the use of Basic English, and lobbied the government of China to teach it in schools there. More recently, it has influenced the creation of Simplified English, a standardized version of English intended for the writing of technical manuals.
Rules of grammar
Ogden's rules of grammar for Basic English allow people to use the 850 words to talk about things and events in the normal English way.
- Words are pluralised by adding an ~s on the end of the word. If there are special ways to make a plural word in English, such as ~es and ~ies, they should be used instead.
- Words like change, turn, and use are not used as verbs, like "I change," "we will turn right," or "you use." They are used as nouns, like "make a change," "take turns," or "make use of," and so on. (This is the key-idea of Basic English.) The 300 of them may be turned into different forms by adding the ending ~er or ~ing; or into adjectives by adding ~ing and ~ed. Only act is to be turned into actor rather than acter.
- Some adjectives can be turned into adverbs with the ending ~ly.
- For comparatives and superlatives, either more and most or ~er and ~est may be used.
- Some adjectives can be inverted with un~.
- Yes/no questions are formed by adding do at the beginning or changing the word order.
- Operators and pronouns conjugate as in normal English.
- Combined words can be formed from two operators (for example become), from two nouns (for example newspaper or headline) or from a noun and a direction (sundown).
- Measures, numbers, money, months, days, years, clock time, and international words are in English forms.
- The wordlist can be augmented by the jargon of an industry or science. For example, regarding grammar, words such as grammar or noun might be used, even though they are not on Ogden's wordlist.
- The letter [X] is not included as it is thought to be the most difficult letter to pronounce.
In the future history
book 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 world government
. In the future world of Wells' vision, virtually all members of humanity know this language.
From 1942 until 1944 George Orwell was a proponent of Basic English, but in 1945 he became critical of universal language. The language later inspired his use of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Noted science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein used a form of Basic English in his story "Gulf" as a language appropriate for a race of genius supermen.
The 850 core words of Basic English are found in Wiktionary's Appendix:Basic English word list
. In addition to this core 850, there are lists used to expand the vocabulary used in any given piece to 1,000 words. This is accomplished 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 specialized subset of that general field.
Other forms of English
Other relevant pages