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PSYCHE, Vol XIII, 1933

A New International Bible

    In times like these it is a pleasure to be able to put on record any sort of news about heads which have not gone under water. So in view of the fact that we are writing these notes in Basic, let us first give the Story of Noah as it will be printed in Stories from the Bible which will be Number 22 of the Basic books listed on page 208 [ of PSYCHE an annual of General and Linguistic Psychology, Volume XIII, 1933.]

    This is not only a good advertisement for the book itself, which comes out on July 15th, but it makes possible some comparisons which are of special interest for the theory of language. The stories in this book are part of the complete Basic Bible, on which work was started in 1930. The selection has not been made from any special point of view, or with any purpose other than that of giving the public some examples of the value of Basic in this important field.
    As a general rule the words of the King James Bible have not been changed where they are good Basic, though more than 80% of the 6,000 there usedl have been taken out.
    It would naturally not be wise for the learner to make use in everyday talk of all the turns of language in these Bible stories. There has beena certain loss of the power of simple statement in the last three hundred years, and it is even possible that, with the help of Basic, we may" get back to someoi our earlier forms of word-music. Current American tendencies are here frequently working in the right direction.
    The chief purpose of a Basic Bible is, however, not for English readers. In the year 1932, more than 25,000,000 Bibles (or books of the Bible) were put out by three British Societies only. Of those, 3,000,000 were printed for the normal market in England ; so that some 20,000,000 went to other countries where the learning of 6,000 words and their uses takes anything from five to ten years. From this it may be judged how much time is wasted on language work if the Basic Bible is able to take away 5 words out of every 6, and still be clear.
    The learning of the Basic system for reading purposes takes only a week or two ; fifteen minutes with a phonograph record gives the sounds of all the words for international use. So that it would be quite possible for Basic to become the international language through the Basic Bible.
    That, however, is only one side of the picture. In addition, there is the value of Basic as a guide to those who have to put the Bible into other languages ; and specially into the languages of Africa and the East, which are so very different in structure from those of Europe.
    In other words, the Basic Bible is not simply one more attempt to get something nearer to the language and thought of AD 1933 than the great work of 1611. This will be clear from almost any part of The Bible, an American Translation, made with great care and learning under the direction of Professors M. Powis Smith and Edgar J. Goodspeed (Chicago, 1931).
    When Boaz (Ruth, IV, 7) becomes the owner of Naomi’s field, the American Bible says :—- Here is the same verse in, Basic : — Men of letters may have their doubts about the different values of the two examples ; and here is the King James version :     Those whose business it is to put such material before the Zulus or the Chinese, or even before young persons in England and America, will at least be interested in a serious attempt to make the Basic Bible as good as possible. And how serious the undertaking is may be judged by the fact that even the present stories might not have been printed for some years if it had not been clear that others would take the field, unconscious of what was being done. br>    Basic, as a system, is limited with great care to 850 words. Of these, 600 are ‘ nouns ’, 150 are ‘adjectives’ and the other 100 (only 18 of which are ‘ verb ’-forms) do the rest ; so that everything may be said in a natural way from the point of view of normal English. For Science, there are 100' general words, and 50 words for any branch which is more or less self-supporting, to take the expert to a level where international words are ready to hand ; so that with 1000 words any branch of knowledge may be fully covered, though the public is still only interested in 850 of them. Looked at in this way, the Bible is equally part of a wider field in which belief and feeling have their place ; The general public does not normally make use ofthe language of religion or the language of verse in going about its business ; so our 100 general words will be those of most use for the reading of verse in all its forms, and our 50 special words will be those of most use for the special purpose of reading the Bible.
    It will be noted that we say reading ; and from the point of View of the learner this is important. If he has a good working knowledge of the 850, he has only to get the sense of the 150 other words when he comes across them (in the process of reading almost 1,000,000). That sense is generally given by the rest of the verse, and the sound of such words is frequently more important than the sense, so that an hour or two will be quite enough tor any ‘learning ‘ which may be necessary. br>    And here we come to another point which makes this sort of writing different from any other in which Basic will normally be used. For more than 300 years certain forms of words have been part of the inner structure of every English mind. Even a small change in the rhythm of these words comes as a shock to millions of readers —- though others may have a feeling that the change is better.
    When Chateaubriand put into French Milton's lines, he gave us " coulait rapidement ”. So when, in the American Bible, there is some doubt if even a Chateaubriand would have been troubled by what is probably a strange effect to most English ears. The English reader, then, is requested to be as internationally-minded as possible in judging this latest attempt in a new form of writing.
    A Basic Bible is certainly not a simple undertaking. When King James said, in 1604- " So far I have not seen a Bible well put into English,” he had before him the work of Wyclif and Tyndale, of Coverdale and Matthew, the Bishops’ Bible and the Douay Bible. Three years were needed for the selection of experts, 54 in number, of whom 47 took part in the work for three years more, in six companies. Every company had meetings from time to time to make comparisons before sending the outcome to other companies ; and at the last a small Committee gave their approval to every word.
    Even then, changes were quickly seen to be necessary. In 1645, and again in 1653, requests were made to the House of Commons for something more in harmony with the knowledge and language of the time ; and in 1870 the Convocation of Canterbury itself undertook a comparison of all readings. Two Committees were formed, one in England and the other in America, and after 14 years the Bible was again put before the public, in the ‘ Revised Version ', with no less than 5,000 changes in the New Testament only. Most of these changes are not important, but they make clear the amount of thought which would have to go to the making of a Bible based on 850 simple words.
    If, however, the Basic Committee is able to get the necessary support for a three year expansion of its work, the apparatus is ready to hand. A great Library has been formed with all the necessary material ; and the Basic Bible might well become the International Bible -- international for the first time in history, a Book for young and old, East and West. It would be clear to the man of little education ; it would be of interent to the man of letters ; it might even be of value to the workers in Anthropology. And so, in the truest sense, the days of Babel would be no more.


Though the work necessary before Basic for Psychology goes to the printer is still far from complete, the back of the undertaking will certainly be broken before the end of 1933. Because of the New York Conference, Basic for Economics had to be got out of the way first ; and with the help of Professor Sargant Florence, Miss Lockhart has made herself responsible for taking the book through its last stages before sailing to America.
    America is still the chief hope of all who are interested in the future of Science from an international angle. The first need of Basic in most branches of science is for an expansion of such work as is now being done by the American Standards Association1 The American Institute of Electrical Engineers,2 and the National Conference on Nomenclature of Disease.3 Every word which gets fixed for international purposes makes the writing of Basic for Science a simpler business, which is a strong argument for a new attack on the question as early as possible.
    This need for a quicker adjustment to changing conditions is happily becoming clear to an increasing number of men of.science in high positions. In the last six numbers of Progress (produced by the Association of Scientific Workers, London), Basic English has been given an important place ; and its value for Science papers will probably be under discussion at the September Meeting of the British Association, where Professor Holman, of the Royal School of Mines, is among those interested in taking our work forward to a point where less time may be wasted in science by men of letters or by the discussion of language systems which do not take into account of the use of English in Germany, Scandinavia, India, and the Far East. In this connection a book which Dr. I. A. Richards is now getting ready (in Basic), Basic Rules of Reason, may be noted. It will certainly be out before December.


Naturally, Basic will not be starting on its journey round the Earth before the right teaching material has been put into other languages. Of the 22 Basic books now on our list, 18 are in Basic, the other four (Basic English, The Basic Vocabulary, The Basic Dictionary, and Debabelization) not being designed as international Readers. The Basic Words is in Basic and, together with the ABC, gives a complete key for anyone who has a knowledge of German or French (the parallel German and French words being printed for all senses), or who will take the trouble to make use of a normal Dictionary. But some book based on the ABC is clearly necessary in every language, as a first step ; so that the order in which our representatives are generally requested to put the system before their different countries is something like this :——     The way is then open for school books of all sorts, and for keys to the Readers, such as Julius Caesar, The Gold Insect, Stories from the Bible, and so on, of which 20 or 30 are now waiting only for the development of an international market.
    Which country will be first in the field with at least 4 of the most necessary units is still not certain. Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and Germany are all well forward with the work. Poland has its Basic News, under the direction of Professor Pawlowski of Wilno, who is working in harmony with Professor Massey of Poznan, where the ABC is being put into Basic. In Denmark, Mrs. Kamma Taylor is getting ready a step by step guide to Basic, based, on the Danish form of the ABC -- which is now almost complete, and will make it possible for Basic English for Danske, by Mr. Boisen and Mr. Christensen, to be used with profit as an addition to school work. In Japan, Mr. Takata and Professor Okakura will not be long in getting their material in order, with the help of Mr. Daniels at Otaru and the support of the Kyoto Basic Monthly. Madame Litvinoff is making herself responsible for the development of the system in the U.S.S.R. —- her special interest being to make Basic a pleasure for the young by the use of verse. Ma Than E', now back in Rangoon, is getting details fixed up with her Burmese friends in education circles ; and so on.

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