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Basic English


Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631220398.2000.x


Basic English, an auxiliary language designed between 1926 and 1930 by C. K. Ogden (1889-1957), differs from * artificial languages in that it represents a lexically and, to some extent, syntactically simplified form of a natural language, * English . ‘Basic’, in this context, not only bears its conventional meaning but was used by Ogden as an acronym for ‘British American Scientific International Commercial’. Basic English has a core vocabulary of 850 words, to which are to be added numerals and the names of the days of the week and the months and a limited number of ‘international words’ ( coffee, hotel, radio, sport, university , etc.). This list can be supplemented by lists of technical terms for special purposes (scientific discourse, biblical translation, etc.). Basic English attracted widespread attention after Ogden published his first book on the language in 1930 and even more so after Winston Churchill took a keen interest in it and in 1943 had a committee set up to explore its possibilities as a future international language. While undoubtedly proving relatively easy to understand, Basic English suffered from the great disadvantage that, with its limited vocabulary, the active use of it involved a great deal of often inadequate or cumbersome paraphrase (‘to buy’, for example, could be rendered by ‘to give money for’). Interest in the language has declined considerably ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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