Basic English

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Basic English, also known as Simple English, is an English-based controlled language created (in essence as a simplified subset of English) by linguist and philosopher Charles Kay Ogden as an international auxiliary language, and as an aid for teaching English as a Second Language. It was presented in Ogden's book Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar (1930). Capitalised, BASIC is sometimes taken as an acronym that stands for British American Scientific International Commercial.[1]

Ogden's Basic, and the concept of a simplified English, gained its greatest publicity just after the Allied victory in the Second World War as a means for world peace. Although Basic English was not built into a program, similar simplifications have been devised for various international uses. Ogden's associate I. A. Richards promoted its use in schools in China.[2] More recently, it has influenced the creation of Voice of America's Special English for news broadcasting, and Simplified English, another English-based controlled language designed to write technical manuals.

What survives today of Ogden's Basic English is the basic 850-word list used as the beginner's vocabulary of the English language taught worldwide, especially in Asia.[3]


Design principles

Ogden tried to simplify English while keeping it normal for native speakers, by specifying grammar restrictions and a controlled small vocabulary which makes an extensive use of paraphrasis. Most notably, Ogden allowed only 18 verbs, which he called "operators". His General Introduction says "There are no 'verbs' in Basic English", with the underlying assumption that, as noun use in English is very straightforward but verb use/conjugation is not, the elimination of verbs would be a welcome simplification.[4]

Word lists

Ogden's word lists include only word roots, which in practice are extended with the defined set of affixes and the full set of forms allowed for any available word (noun, pronoun, or the limited set of verbs).[5]

The 850 core words of Basic English are found in Wiktionary's Appendix:Basic English word list. This core is theoretically enough for everyday life. However, Ogden prescribed that any student should learn an additional 150 word list for everyday work in some particular field, 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 specialised subset of that general field, to make a basic 1000 word vocabulary for everyday work and life.

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