|PART I:||THE SYSTEM||page|
|V.||THE BASIC TRANSLATIONS|
|PART II:||SPECIMEN TRANSLATIONS|
A further study of Basic English Applied (Commerce) is already in the press, as well as a collection of model translations covering Travel, Conversation, Correspondence, Memoranda, Essays, Addresses, Radio News, and Diplomacy.
A critical account of the problem of an International Language, Debabelization, is also in active preparation ; and two theoretical volumes — The Panoptic Method and Opposition — will complete the general background for a series of elementary practical manuals in all languages — and for The Basic Dictionary.
The scientific material here presented has been the result of lengthy discussions with scientists and linguists of many nationalities. The co-ordination of their various contributions has been the work of a central Committee, to which Miss L. W. Lockhart, the translator of Carl and Anna, has acted as Secretary. To her energy and ability is due the appearance of their interim report, which might otherwise have been delayed for many months. Our special thanks are also due to Professor H. Munro Fox of Birmingham University, and to Dr. H. Stafford Hatfield of the Inventions Department of the Orthological Institute, for sifting the preliminary data in their respective sciences.
The fact that the authors of the three specimens here selected for publication were able to approve the Basic version with only slight emendations is a sufficient testimony both to the success of the translator in an essentially experimental task, and to the value of Basic English for the purposes of international science in the future.
In the case of the aerodynamics translation, where the style and subject matter presented special difficulties, it was thought wise to obtain an independent opinion. Mr. M. J. Rantzen, C.P.A., who kindly looked over the manuscript, was able to satisfy himself that the essentials of the paper had been preserved in translation from the point of view of the technical reader.
C. K. OGDEN.The Orthological Institute,
For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the published account of the system in its more general aspects, 1 a brief recapitulation is desirable.
In Basic English the vocabulary is reduced, with the aid of a definition technique, to 850 words, made up of 600 nouns, 150 adjectives (50 of which are opposites), and 100 operators and other grammatical adjuncts.
Verbs are dispensed with by combining the operators (names of fundamental operations) with directives (prepositions), e.g. Enter = go in. These operators conjugate fully. Exactly half the noun-forms generate two further nouns and two adjectives by adding the regular -er, -ing, -ed suffixes, and the pronouns are declined in the usual way. The only other formations that have been assumed are plurals, comparatives, adverbs (in -ly from adjectives), and the prefix un-.
Each word has one definition, subject to metaphorical extension, and difficult idioms are avoided. Word order is simplified for the beginner by a model sentence.
The 850 words of the general vocabulary are expanded for scientific purposes to 1,000. Of the additional 150, 100 are general science words, the framework of technical description, — and the other 50 cover specialized fields. Three considerations have governed the choice of scientific words : frequency of occurrence, difficulty of definition, and instrumentality in the definition of other words.
The fare offered in these pages is served without any literary embellishment, the purpose of the translations being a purely practical one. The papers selected are not likely to be of interest to the layman, and it is assumed that the needs of the scientist will be met if Basic is capable of the adequate statement of scientific fact. The Committee believes that the present translations are likely to carry conviction on this point.1 Basic English and The Basic Vocabulary, uniform with the present volume.
9THE DIFFICULTIES OF TRANSLATION The desirability of making scientific material internationally available is not seriously questioned. There is, however, a certain difference of opinion as to how this should be done. The two alternatives for consideration are translation and the adoption of some universal medium. For immediate practical purposes, the first is the only solution, but our constructive efforts should be directed towards the realization of the second. Any scheme that gives promise of superseding our present clumsy procedure of wholesale translation, which is at once expensive and inadequate, is to be viewed with favor. It is disappointing, therefore, to find that the Committee on Intellectual Co-operation, when considering the question of making published scientific data universally available, 1 discussed translation possibilities at great length, but made no reference to current proposals for an international language.
Whether force of circumstance would eventually succeed in making scientific terminology international, may be a question of speculative interest, but it is hardly one of practical importance. Our active participation in the problem is conditioned by the chances of seeing science internationalized in our own lifetime. But the reluctance to exchange the familiar for the unfamiliar is so strong that organized assault is necessary before one custom can be overthrown and another put in its place.
The only hope of achieving a world language for science within the next fifty years is to form an organization for research and propaganda. The Metric System would certainly not have sprung so quickly into almost universal use, had it not been put forward by a powerful and persuasive organization. The pressing need for some generally accepted standard of weights and measures had given birth to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. This Body became the champion of the Metric System which France had originated. Thanks to its skillful advocacy and the gradual perfecting of the principles, the Joint Director of the Bureau, Professor Guillaume, was able to announce in 1913 1 that no less than 19 countries had officially adopted the system since 1857. Incidentally, the refusal of Great Britain to conform to general usage in this respect is an example of the unreasoning prejudices by which even the most salutary reforms are often hindered.
Since the pioneer speculations of Wilkins and Leibnitz in the seventeenth century, there have been two main landmarks in the history of the movement to provide a universal language for science : the analysis of the foundations of language by Bentham, and the publication of the Couturat-Jespersen-Ostwald manifesto, after seven years of investigation by the authors with the Dóldgation pour l'adoption d'une langue auatliare internationale.
With the work of Bentham and its bearing on Basic English, we have dealt elsewhere.1. The Ido manifesto, though almost entirely abortive, is of sufficient importance to merit careful consideration by scientists, if only as a warning for future Commissions which may be called upon to report to future learned organizations.
It is over twenty years since the publication of the volume, International Language and Science, on whose title page appear the names of six of the most eminent scientists of Europe. Yet it would be hard to maintain that the language which they so confidently recommended to their scientific colleagues has made any progress whatever in the intervening period. Indeed, it is perhaps significant that Professor Jespersen, the only member of the original delegation who is still associated in the public mind with linguistic reform, has since made himself responsible for an independent project, whose prospects are even more problematic. 2
Since, however, Basic English was developed partly as a result of reflections on the failure of such propaganda, it is worth while to consider in somewhat greater detail the situation as it presented itself to the scientists of 1910. Why, in the first place, was it so obvious to them that only an artificial language could serve the purposes of science, and that every national language must be ruled out in advance?
Professor Lorentz of Zurich answers without hesitation:
"They are all so unsuitable, capricious and complicated that the student must learn to steer clear of thousands of difficulties before he is able to express himself fairly correctly".
and Professor Jespersen is equally emphatic:
"Every natural language is too difficult for foreigners. It is very seldom that a foreigner succeeds, even after years of study, in learning a language sufficiently well to avoid occasionally making one of those mistakes which instantly betray his origin to the natives ; it may be a false stress, or a word employed with an almost imperceptibly different shade of meaning, or placed in a position in a sentence where a native would never place it, or, finally, a phrase which, though logically correct, is nevertheless not permitted by the usage of the language. . . . We require, accordingly, a language which shall be not only neutral, but also as easy as possible".
By those who have familiarized themselves with the exposition of Basic in our previous Issues, this can only be regarded as a typical academic bogey. What Irishman, or Scotchman, has ever stressed his words as the English do, or troubled to avoid "almost imperceptibly different shades of meaning" from those familiar to his English hearer ? On such principles it could be shown conclusively that English is debarred from being the common language of the British Isles.
Again, what Englishman would think of stressing his words, or adapting their subtler meanings, so as to conform in every respect with those of his American and Canadian cousins ? On such principles no International Committee could ever have sanctioned English as the language of the English-speaking world. However, with notions such as these, and with no proposal for simplification before them, the Delegation set about its seven year task with condition 2(c) as an axiom:
What they actually proceeded to do was to modify Esperanto — itself a modification, the highest common factor, of six of the 1,500 languages of the world, all of Western European origin. How such a solution was to commend itself as 'neutral' to the thousand millions of the East is nowhere discussed ; and the ease with which the Chinese and Japanese would stress its phonetic creations, and master the inflections of its verbs, and their hardly perceptible shades of meaning, is left to the imagination.
No doubt in the early part of this century the East was still outside the scientific pale. The Greeks had their 'barbarians' — all who were not Greeks ; and, in fact, to nineteenth century Europe, the white man's burden had still a very real significance. Outside the Garden of Eden was the Bear-garden of Aden, and further still was far Cathay. Even to day those whose geography was acquired before the Great War find it difficult to adjust themselves to a world which is socially globular.
But whatever the cause of their shortcomings, the fact that the Ido Delegation walked finally up a cul-de-sac need not blind us to the merits of their general summary of the needs and achievements of science in the matter of international communication. On these, as a preliminary to any subsequent discussion of the problem, the case for Basic is also founded.
The question of an international language for science has not come up for official review in England since the meeting of the British Association in 1921. On that occasion, though the final decision of the Committee favored an artificial language, it was recognized that English had the strongest claim among the national languages, being at once more simple to learn and more widely known than any of its rivals.
English was opposed in the first place out of consideration for the general principle that national jealousies are bound to be fostered if a national language is promoted to international status, and in the second place because it was held to be less simple than an artificial language. The three points emphasized in this connection are difficult spelling, exacting word order, and ambiguity arising out of under-inflection.
The Basic English compromise does much towards meeting all these objections. The fact that it is an adapted form of English which will require a certain amount of study even by those for whom English is a native tongue should go far to mitigate the danger of jealousy, and jealousy may even be turned into eager cooperation by due insistence on the commercial value to foreigners of some knowledge of the English language. To-day, indeed, the demand for a simplified form of English as the universal language is coming chiefly from abroad, as the propaganda in favor of 'Anglic' (whereby a radical spelling reform would be introduced in the interests of foreign learners) sufficiently proves.
As to the view that English is not sufficiently simple to play the part of an international medium, eccentric spelling is no great obstacle in a vocabulary reduced to 850 words, and may even be a mnemonic advantage ;1 word order can be simplified by providing a series of models which guarantee correct usage to the unadventurous ; and phonetic ambiguities are reduced to a minimum by the exclusion of verb-forms. Incidentally, these ambiguities are generally eliminated by context even in Standard English.
It is not possible to introduce complete regularity into a natural language. But the simplification of Basic has certain definite advantages. The economy of the verb system recommends Basic to the Oriental just as the economy of vocabulary recommends it to the Occidental. A language like Esperanto, on the other hand, is frankly designed to meet the needs of the Western European. So much so indeed that the B.A. Committee, after enumerating the advantages of Esperanto, went on to add that "evidence is lacking that this ease of acquirement applies equally well to Eastern peoples, e.g. Chinese, Japanese, natives of India, Africa, etc., and the Committee would welcome information on this point ".
If Basic is to be the world language of Science, it can only become so by enlisting all available international resources. The ideal arrangement, envisaged for the future, is a large vocabulary of completely international technical words, operated stylistically by the 850 words of Basic. We are still very far from such a millennium, but it is at least possible, as a first step towards its realization, to assume and use for Basic purposes everything that has already reached the international stage. Quite apart from the pertinent fact that Basic would be unable to cope with scientific requirements without these international aids, it would be a disastrous policy for any proposed world language to ignore these tendencies, and impose a closed system of its own which left current international-tame outside. The co-operative nature of modern science is adding daily to the list of words that have world-wide currency, and the greatest hope for the future lies in the extension of this nucleus of common terms. By consolidating in a single system all that has so far been made international, Basic is securing the elements of a universal scientific language against fortuitous disappearance. The reluctance manifested in certain quarters to adopt international notations even where they exist is gradually vanishing.
Take, for example, the International Physico-Chemical Symbols prepared by the International Association of Chemistry Societies. This work was carried out with great thoroughness. It began as early as 1911, and in 1913 the special
Every existing international term is an asset in the Basic scheme. The high proportion of international words used in the present translation is a cause, therefore, for congratulation rather than apology. But the question arises, what standard of internationality should be adopted in a scientific vocabulary ? At the general level, clearly, no words can be admitted as international unless they are at least understood throughout the West and in the larger communities of the East. But at the scientific level internationality must be interpreted rather differently. Science is so much a product of the Western intellect that many of the non-European languages, for example, those of Africa, are lacking in even the most elementary scientific terms. It may safely be assumed that Eastern students of science will preface their studies by learning one of the major European languages.
Members of the smaller European nations find themselves under the same necessity, owing to the scarcity of scientific literature in the native tongue. This reduces internationality, for scientific purposes, to currency in perhaps half a dozen languages. A certain amount of selectivity will be inevitable when we come to the final definition of this standard. At the present stage we venture upon no more than a provisional ruling. For the international terms of General Science and the majority of those used in the chemistry translations, we have had primarily in view the seven languages used in Pitman's Technical Dictionary. That is to say, the words marked as international are familiar to scientific workers using English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and German. In the Biology translation, internationality has been recognized in cases where a word appears in German and in French. As German is the language conforming least readily to international usage (with the possible exception of Russian), it may be assumed that a very large percentage of the words found to be common to English, German, and French are also international in the wider sense.
The task of drawing up complete international lists is a formidable one, since international dictionary-making seems still to be in its infancy. The co-operation of scientific workers in all parts of the world is essential if valuable results are to be achieved. The Committee offers no apology, therefore, for the provisional character of the material published, and will be grateful for any data either modifying or extending its findings.
There are, of course, a certain number of words whose internationality is beyond dispute. The Latin terms for genus and species in various classifications, weights and measures, and a great many formulae (for instance the
Another curious fact observed in the course of the research is that an adjective derived from a word is quite frequently international when the word itself is not. Magnet thus gives us the International form, magnetic. A definite policy of extending the internationality of the adjective to the noun (and vice versa) would add considerably to stylistic freedom. Where use is made in the present translations of derivations that are not internationally understood (e.g. distillate from distillation), attention is called to the fact by a footnote. Locutions are introduced where possible however. For example, in Professor Fox's letter (see p. 81) melanism is described as "black coloring resulting from melanin", though the word melanism, in context, would probably have been perfectly intelligible to the foreign reader.
Where there is difficulty in supplying an accurate definition of a technical term that is not accepted as international, it is advisable to print the original term in brackets. There is always a chance that a large proportion of readers will understand it, even if it is not understood universally. Thus in the Levy translation (p. 61), 'shearing' is given in brackets after the description, "one plane moving in parallel direction over another".
All international terms used in the translations are introduced with an asterisk.
The task of preparing the technical vocabularies of Basic is considerably hampered by the fact that so little has been done to systematize the linguistic side of technology. The Basic simplifier has been so far without collaborators. He has the classified data of the technical dictionaries 1 to guide him, but beyond this he must work as a pioneer. Information about international terms is scanty,2 and selective vocabularies are practically non-existent.
The only precedent for taking stock of science terminology as a whole is the survey of special vocabularies made for quite a different purpose by the University of Ohio.3. This undertaking emphasizes the magnitude of the task (14,000 words are pronounced important by teachers in the 19 subjects represented in these lists), but in other respects the investigation is useful as a warning rather than as an example.
In the first place the object for which the lists were compiled precluded fundamental treatment. It may be of considerable practical value to provide school children with word lists that will enable them to understand their standard text-books, but the work has no theoretical importance.
In the second place, the method by which the lists were determined is unsatisfactory. Since the purpose of the survey was not to reform the writing of text-books but simply to equip children with the means of understanding the text-books already written, this seems an occasion on which the Thorndike frequency method might have been employed with profit. But an attempt has been made to select and grade words according to their intrinsic rather than their statistical importance. The investigators, however, did not employ any definite principle of selection in making their final decision as to what constituted a significant vocabulary in the subjects dealt with. Instead, when they had made a list of all the words appearing in a wide range of school books, they resorted to a jury of schoolmasters, each of whom made an independent report. As is inevitable when individual judgments are relied on and the terms of reference left vague, no system is apparent in the conclusions.
The most unsatisfactory feature of the lists, if the critic adopts the ad hoc standpoint of those who made the investigation, is that though the vocabularies are supposed to include only words which are either difficult or technical, they are in fact littered with words so simple and so common that they should be familiar to a child with even the most elementary reading ability. Consider, for example, the inclusion in the Arithmetic list of buy, barrel and step ; in the Geography list of air, brick, day-time, food ; in the Physics list of bend, cloud, hook, possess. There is no doubt a certain value from the learner's point of view in having the main features of a subject summarized in vocabulary form, but the summary loses all its virtue if blurred by the introduction of irrelevances.
The Pressey Lists would have had a greater interest for Basic purposes had some attempt been made to separate the wheat from the chaff in this matter of technical terms. But from this wider standpoint of simplification the school vocabularies have necessarily many shortcomings. They are at once redundant and inadequate. In other words, they are not, in any significant sense, selective at all. The redundancies may be illustrated by the following pairs of words, all given equal status in the lists : antiseptic and disinfectant, affinity and attraction, melt and fusion, stratum and layer. Other obvious luxury words are administer (Biol.) ; amputate, posture (Physiol.) ; dozen (Arith.) ; altitude, interpose, pollution (Gen. Sci). Of the omissions, for which possibly the text-books, but more probably the jury of teachers, are responsible, the following are typical : cusp, parameter, momentum (Maths.) ; deposit, mean (Common Sci.) ; bud, hypogynous (Biol.).
It is not, of course, suggested that vocabularies so widely differing in aim are likely to have much in common with one another. It would be unreasonable to expect the Pressey lists to solve the problems of Basic simplification. But the fact that so little of importance can be gleaned from the labors of other research workers in the same field, shows that the task which Basic has undertaken is not one in which accepted methods are likely to meet with much success.
At first sight it may seem a little paradoxical to treat the translation of 'technical terms' as a special problem, when all scientific translation is in a sense nothing but the translation of technical terms.
In practice, however, technical words are often as amenable to substitution as any other words. Fluid, volatile, desiccator, titration, dissection are all technical, but they go simply enough into Basic. 1. Of the technical terms that are not covered by the international list or the special vocabularies, there are only two kinds which as such present difficulties to the translator : those which are so specialized that they can only be defined satisfactorily with the help of other technical terms, and those which are a distortion of some common word used in ordinary parlance.
Of the first type, the term common genital duct may be taken as an example. No generalized description, e.g. 'reproduction organ' is adequate. Definition must be exact as to locality and function. The only method of dealing with such terms is either to include them or their constituents in the special vocabularies or to find international expressions in terms of which they may be defined. In all such cases it is important to discover the unique feature in the meaning of the word under consideration.
The second type, those which adapt some common word to a particular purpose, are a pitfall for the unwary. They are perhaps the chief of many dangers which confront the lay translator. In rare instances, where some complex theory has become historic under a simple but inadequately descriptive name, there is no solution
Take, for example, the occurrence of 'ashless filter paper' in the third translation. Here the trouble is that the technical man understands 'ashless' in this context to mean 'almost ashless'. But if we change 'ashless' to 'mineral-free', which is equivalent to the literal meaning of 'ashless' in this connection, it will not be understood by the technical man to mean 'almost mineral-free', because he knows of no convention which makes it so. The distinction is perhaps a trifling one, but misunderstanding can be avoided by using the term 'ashless' filter paper and foot-noting 'ashless' as 'almost mineral-free'.
A case of specialization is to be found in the same paper in the phrase, 'slit of a quartz spectrograph'. 'Slit 'can normally be translated as a 'narrow opening' ; but a spectrograph has several openings and only one is technically known as the 'slit'. On this occasion, the use to which the opening is put serves to identify it without more specific reference being made. On the whole, context can be relied upon to remove the ambiguity.
Another form of specialization is exemplified by the word 'profile' as used by Professor Levy in connection with aerodynamics. The simple 'translation into 'outline' is entirely inadequate from the technical point of view. It has to be explained in a foot-note as the 'form of a section in relation to a special direction of liquid or gas streaming'.
'Uniform' as a descriptive term for motion is similarly misleading. The substitute which suggests itself most naturally is 'regular', but 'regular motion' implies that it is periodic. The nearest equivalents are 'constant' or 'unchanging', and these were finally adopted by the translator.
Some vigilance has to be exercised not to stumble upon a technical term inadvertently in the search for equivalents. There was a temptation, for instance, to translate 'final state' in the Levy paper as 'end condition', but this happens itself to be a technical term of different import. Instead, we must substitute 'the condition at the end of the disturbance'.
To a mere orthologist it seems obvious to render steam as 'water gas'. To a chemist, however, water gas means something quite different, namely, the mixture of gases produced by passing steam over coal. Steam has therefore to be described in Basic as the gas-form of water.
Another danger lies in the translation of a standard descriptive cliché into a Basic cliché. One is tempted to convert a word like intermediate into 'middle chemical'. But whereas intermediate has the meaning of a chemical formed in the process of producing another chemical, no such association attaches to the phrase 'middle chemical' which would probably convey nothing at all to the chemist.
A further point which arises is the value of metaphor as a means of giving technical extensions to words, for example, the use of property in the sense of quality.
The technical man is not without his stylistic prejudices, and these must be studied by the translator if Basic English is to have any vogue among scientists. Typical of such prejudices was the objection to a suggestion made by
Some account has been given of the methods of substitution used in the translation of technical descriptive terms. But apart from these technical words, scientific statement has its own time-honored phrases ; and for these phrases a special interstitial vocabulary is required. At first the Committee was of the opinion that the scientist should be limited to the stylistic accessories provided in the General Vocabulary. Experience in translating showed, however, that a few concessions to custom and conciseness immensely simplify the translator's task, and the General Science Vocabulary was amended accordingly. This accounts for the inclusion of such words as arrangement, case, demonstration, difficulty, explanation, investigation, length, strength. The convenience of these last two fictions finally prevailed against considerable opposition on theoretical grounds.
All these words are either in constant demand themselves or can be used as convenient substitutes for words constantly in demand. For example, investigation may not seem to be a very essential word, but its value will be clear when it is pointed out that it can be used as an equivalent for search, inquiry, survey (see Fox p. 79 'investigation of representative animals'), and examination.
But here as elsewhere, Basic is concerned with the elimination rather than with the introduction of words, and that is the main point we must consider. Most of the verbal padding of scientific exposition is as easily dispensed with the verbiage of journalism and commerce. A few clichés are suggested in the following list (drawn chiefly from the translations printed in this volume), which may be taken as typical of the way in which common scientific terms can be avoided:
Analogous Approximate Bifurcation Correction Expression Fundamental In succession Known Practical Relative (Proportions) Respectively Speed Standard (solution) Subsidiary Whole
= Like = Rough = Forking = Adjustment (e.g. for absorption) = Formula = Important (. . . presents fundamental difficulties = makes it hard) = In turn, one after another = It is a fact . . . (or simple statement) = Of use (in some particular connection) = Ratio = In the one . . . in the other . . . = Rate of motion = Reference or normal = Dependent = Complete
The grouping of the sciences for vocabulary purposes will not necessarily follow the Conventional divisions of their subject matter. If Basic English is to be an efficient instrument for science, convenience must be the only criterion.
The two special vocabularies printed in this volume illustrate the way in which re-grouping may be found expedient. Three vocabularies were experimentally constructed, one for physics, one for chemistry, and one for mathematics. On this classification, however, it was found that physical and chemical terms were confused on the one hand, and physical and mathematical terms on the other. The dubious terms might have been duplicated, but where space is limited, duplication is bad economy. Moreover, had such a course been adopted, it would certainly not have been possible to accommodate the whole of physics in 50 words. Yet, discarding the principle of duplication, it seemed unfair to require the physicist to master three separate vocabularies to complete his own.
The revised classification, a twofold division into Experimental Physics and Chemistry, and Mathematics Pure and Applied, may not be entirely satisfactory, but it avoids both these difficulties. The pure mathematician need learn only one vocabulary, and the experimental physicist and chemist are also provided with a self-contained unit. Not till Applied Mathematics, and the higher branches of Physics and Chemistry involving mathematical calculation, are reached, will it be necessary to extend the vocabulary. And even then the combined vocabulary will reach only 100 words.
It is, of course, evident, that some provision will have to be made for more minute specialization, but at these higher levels of knowledge, the proportion of international words tends to be greater.