OGDEN's BASIC ENGLISH
Found on the Web
There was only one Web site with Basic English when I first looked (1996) :
Richard K. Harrison's Universal Language Dictionary Project
and it contained an expiration notice. I copied the dictionary before it was lost
to the public and display it as a page on this site. It has since been
reissued as Version 2 (July'02) with a Ver. 3 in the works at:
Universal Language Dictionary
Jeffery Henning, who did the Basic English dictionary portion, can now be found
through his work on: Langmaker.
With the advent of the
AltaVista search engine, more references have been found.
A search on "Basic English" + Ogden works well. Here is a sampling.
Special Collections and Archives in the Institute of Education
This collection includes books and papers bequeathed by Professor Joseph Lauwerys (1902-1981),
Professor of Comparative Education at the Institute from 1947-1970. They cover such topics as:
broadcasting in education, progressive education, the founding of UNESCO, education for international
understanding, science education, and C.K. Ogden's Basic English. Books occupy 141 shelves, papers
12 shelves. The materials in the collection have not been sorted.
Archives DC/BEF Basic English Foundation (f.1947)
Basic English was developed by Charles Kay Ogden (1889-1957) as an
International language' and as a system for teaching English to speakers of
other languages using a simplified vocabulary of 850 words. In 1947, with the
involvement of the Ministry of Education, the Basic English Foundation was
established to promote the use of this system. Its main activity was translating
and publishing books in Basic English and, after a controversial history, it
finally wound up its activities in the 1960s.
Whittier English Courses
315* The System of Basic English. -
An introduction to C.K. Ogden's system of Basic English in light of traditional and modern philosophy.
This course is designed for students who want to develop systematic control of written and spoken
English. Prerequisite: INTD 100. January session, 4 credits.
There are many references to Basic English in alt-usage-english. Here are some.
The ALT.USAGE.ENGLISH FAQ File
artificial dialects: Basic English
Subject: alt.usage.english FAQ
artificial dialects: Basic English
THE ALT.USAGE.ENGLISH FAQ FILE
Basic English (where "Basic" stands for "British American
Scientific International Commercial") is a subset of English with
a base vocabulary of 850 words, propounded by C. K. Ogden in 1929.
Look under "Ogden" in your library's author index.
Basic English Vocabulary
Basic English is a list of 850 words in English that are intended to be sufficient for
day-to-day communication. The list was established by C.K. Ogden in 1930.
These pages intend to establish a similar list of vocabulary for other languages. The
aim of this is to help people who are learning other languages to develop a solid
vocabulary base. This is not done through any sort of thorough study of word usage
in languages, but rather a simple translation of the Basic English vocabulary into
I am currently working on translations into German, Esperanto, Latin and various
other languages. If you would like to help me, either with these languages or with
another, I can give you a comma delimited text file that is easily importable into a
spreadsheet or database program, or editable by any text editor and word
C.K. Ogden Library
UCL Library - Manuscripts & Rare Books Room - 5,000 vols and over 500 mss. boxes
One of the Library's finest rare book and manuscript collections.
Purchased in 1953 with a grant made by the Nuffield Foundation to encourage
research work in the field of communications, it consists of about 5,000
volumes of carefully built special collections of rare books, including 152
early Bentham items, 24 incunabula and 294 books printed before 1640,
as well as the personal archive of over 60,000 letters and 100 boxes of
family papers of the 1st Lord Brougham, one of the university's founders and
national political figures, and 102 individual manuscripts and small
manuscript collections, dating from the 14th to the 20th century.
It formed an important part of the vast collection of Charles Kay Ogden,
founder of the Orthological Institute and author of Basic English .
Ogden's own interests in language systems are reflected in the subject matter
of the UCL collection, which contains early editions of Bacon, Coleridge,
Milton, Shelley, Minsheu, Boyle, a fine collection of Ben Jonson material
including a signed copy of Vitruvius' De Architectura, and rare early
examples of cryptography and shorthand. Books are traceable through UCL
Library's on-line catalogue : eUCLid
(search under the classmark OGDEN).
The Ogden manuscripts include a group of seventeen Elizabethan and
Jacobean manuscripts relating to Bacon and Shakespeare, a three-page letter
of Shelley, 95 letters of Dante Rossetti, 67 letters of Emile Zola, 826 letters
of John Bright, an Arnold Bennett collection of over 2,000 letters, including
Joseph Conrad, Andre Gide, Virginia Woolf and Rebecca West as well as
the author's corrected manuscripts. The correspondents of Lord Brougham
include eminent political, literary and celebrity names of the 19th century
including Benjamin Disraeli; William Gladstone; Arthur Wellesley,
2nd Duke of Wellington; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey; Henry Bellenden Ker;
William Wilberforce; Charles Dickens; William Lamb; and Queen Caroline.
Global English Research Project
Transitional English -- "This site is still (and likely always will be) under construction."
Spanish and Italian Department, U of Kentucky
From Korzybski's Science and Sanity, 1933:
”.. Information about the Basic English of Ogden as a
Universal Language, consisting of the astonishingly small number
of 850 words, which do the work of about 20,000 words,
may be obtained from the Orthological Institute, 1
0 King’s Parade, Cambridge, England
See also Ogden, C. K. The Basic Vocabulary. London,
Basic English, London. In my opinion, the possibilities of
the Basic English for a scientific civilization are unlimited,
provided the Basic is revised from a non-Aristotelian, non-identity,
point of view.”
Also contains a 4-5 page passage from
From "THE ABC OF BASIC ENGLISH" by Ogden.
English as an International Language.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lists reference works and many links.
The Bible In Basic English, 1965, by Cambridge University Press.
Published without any copyright notice and distributed in America,
this work fell immediately and irretrievably into the public
domain in the United States.
In any search engine, look for the exact text: The "Bible in Basic English" to find 800 references.
- Bible.ChristiansUnite - select book, then chapter.
- O-Bible - with search
- Parallel Bible - BBE and any version
- Online Bible for Macintosh - Disk Image Index (2MB)
Sample : Bible
- Download Zip : Bible Foundation
The Bible text designated BBE is from The Bible in Basic English printed
in 1965 by Cambridge Press in England. The form in which the Bible is
given here is not simply another example of the Bible story put into
present-day English. The language used is Basic English. Basic English,
produced by Mr C. K. Ogden of the Orthological Institute, is a simple
form of the English language which, with 850 words, is able to give the
sense of anything which may be said in English. Hint: the
BBE suffix can be treated as a .txt file.
Philosophy and Criticism
The Voynich Manuscript as a Trithemian Cypher
In the entire Voynich A corpus, there are about 2300 unique groups.
But over half of them occur once only, and many of those are pretty strange
in other ways, such as looking like two normal groups run together. If we
exclude those, we have about 1000 groups. That's too few for natural language
- Ogden's "Basic English" contains 1600 words and it's a fright. So this
is either not language or some highly stylized or synthetic language,
as has often been suspected.
English and Grammatical Reform (1937; HTML by Eldritch Press)
New address Jan'02
Full text of C.K. Ogden pamphlet. Thank you, Douglas.
"For the last thirty or forty years, teachers have been putting up a great
fight against the old forms of 'Grammar'--against the learning of rules based on
the structure of dead languages. By protesting against book-knowledge with
little or no relation to the needs and interests of present-day society, they
have certainly taken a step in the right direction. ..." (pamphlet, 85KB, 26 pg)
Ogden was an academic, writing in a different era, and in England.
His thesis is couched in that manner.
2. Copy of Basic English and Grammatical Reform -
with some scanning errors fixed and smaller font. (84KB, 17 pg)
Winston Churchill, Inside the Journals
Churchill's directives to the BBC and a translation of the Atlantic Charter.
Basic English Forum
I am writing an essay on it for my English class and
opened a forum on Delphi to discuss issues related to it.
The forum has a poll, a section for people to post opposing views,
suggestions for my essay and I am trying to complete a project for
helping native English speakers learn Basic English much faster.
Committee in India leads to inactivity.
VOA Special English.
Special English is a simplified English language used by Voice of
America. Ogden recommended radio news be given in Basic English as a
way to reach the world with understanding. The news was to be in Basic
with the appropriate special news vocabulary add-on.
Homer: Text Interpreter
The vocabulary is intended to comprise "about 1900 words, which are
approximately the union of Ogden's Basic English (Ogden 1934) and the 1000
most frequent English words."
The Basic English vocabulary provides the breadth needed to describe
objects and events in the environment. The frequent English facilitates better communication with the user.
Constructed languages are languages which are intended to be spoken by
people, to people (as distinct from, say, programming languages), and which
have been deliberately constructed rather than having evolved. There are a
vast number of these, most of which are never used by anyone but their
inventor. Only a handful have ever had a significant circulation, but with
the advent of the World Wide Web, it now becomes possible to make one's ideas
available to all at little cost.
Field Evaluation of Simplified English for Aircraft Workcards
"Since Latin faded as the common scientific language, there have been various attempts to produce artificial
languages to allow people of different countries to intercommunicate. For general use, the early twentieth
century saw Esperanto and later Basic English (Ogden, 1934). More recently, restricted technical languages
have appeared, such as Caterpillar Fundamental English (CFE) for the documentation of agricultural vehicles,
and Simplified English (SE) for the documentation of procedures on commercial aircraft.
1. Aircraft manufacturers and technical operations departments in airlines can use SE for workcards and
be confident that it will improve comprehension accuracy."
The Babel Text
The Babel Text is an evolving database comparing how different languages,
natural and artificial, can be used to translate the same passage.
The current edition (September 24th, 1995) has translations for: ...
Chapter 3. How to Build a Language ©
Basic English is something of a deviation from our general discussion,
as it was a deviation from the general development of constructed languages.
Published in 1930 by C.K. Ogden, Basic claimed to be English reduced to a
vocabulary of 850 words, yet still suitable for uses in commerce, science,
and the arts.
Over its relatively short lifetime, Basic gained support from a number of
famous English speakers. In the postwar era, the British Council, an organization
devoted to the promulgation of English around the world, purchased the rights
to Basic English, and since that time it has been used primarily as an
introduction to standard -- i.e., British -- English for foreigners.
European Union Spelling: The next step?
Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC
(now officially the European Union, or EU), the European
Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of
improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.
"Learning to Use Simplified English: A Preliminary Study,"
by Margaret Thomas, Gloria Jaffe, J. Peter Kincaid, and Yvette Stees in Technical Communication: Journal of the
Society for Technical Communication.
Controlled English refers to writing systems that contain limited choices of standard English words. These
systems restrict acceptable sentence structure. Ambiguities, colloquialisms, and synonyms are not permitted.
Consequently, non-English readers can understand technical documents written in Controlled English after
relatively brief training.
Controlled English can be traced to C. K. Ogden. In the 1930s and 1940s,
he hoped to popularize a general purpose "Basic English" that would be an
international language as well as serve as a foundation for standard
English. A dictionary was published including some 20,000 common words
defined in terms of an 850-word Basic English vocabulary. However,
Basic English was a novelty that never got off the ground.
In the 1970s, controlled English was used in technical writing.
In 1971, the Caterpillar Tractor Company developed a 900-word vocabulary it
used for writing product documentation for worldwide distribution.
In 1979, the Douglas Aircraft Company devised a 2,000 word dictionary it
uses for its technical manuals.
This page comes out of research I did for my dissertation (and now book
project), Global English in the Academy. I have put up a general description
of my project and some relevant links.
What Is Global English?
Because the syntactical formulation "Global English" does not yet have
an immediately obvious meaning, I'll begin with four instances of its use,
culled from both academic and more general sources: [ Good links ]
, U of Minn
Basic English; also Ogden's Basic English, Basic
Airspeak: Also air traffic control English, Aviation English. Effects
SeaSpeak: Also English for maritime communications.
Essential World English by Lancelot Hogben. A 1,300 word
version of Basic with more verbs. Decent book, approximates Ogden's "The Next Step".
Out of print.
BASIC ENGLISH and Speedwords/Rap Lin Rie
An abbreviated writing invention to transcribes languages.
Fanetiks / Phonetics
Reformed (Phonetic) English Spelling - At Least for Teaching.
Welkam tu a nu wae uv rieting Ingglish -- a raashanal wae.
"BASIC" English (British American Scientific International Commercial)
in Fanetik - a transliteration into Fanetik and Augméntad Fanétik of all 850
words of the simplified-English system created by C.K. Ogden in 1928 and
endorsed by Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and others as an auxiliary
by George Bernard Shaw to The Miraculous Birth of Language by R A Wilson, 1941.
Simplified Spelling Society -
subscription $30 or 30 euros.
English as 2nd Language
An introduction to the issue of the importance of the emerging "Global English"
approach to English learning.
Basic English Hurrah!
Basic English is the best International Language ever invented.
Let's improve and revive it! On this page you can... Download a free
program to convert documents in BE from standard spelling to reformed,
consistent spelling systems and vice versa.
International Auxiliary Languages
C. K. Ogden
Charles Kay Ogden. Born June 1, 1889, Fleetwood, Lancashire, England.
Died March 20, 1957, London.
British writer and linguist who originated Basic English, developed between
1926 and 1930, a simplified system of the English language intended as a
uniform, standardized means of international communication. It enjoyed some
popularity for more than a decade, but subsequently the language was little used.
Ogden, Charles Kay . Brit. educator & psychologist; inventor & proponent of Basic English, 1889-1957.
Richards, Ivor Armstrong . Eng. critic; advocate of Basic English;
co-wrote "The Meaning of Meaning" 1923 with C. K. Ogden, wrote
"Principles of Literary Criticism" 1924; member of New Criticism school 1893-1979.
The Language Construction Kit
This is a tempting idea, not least because it promises to save us a good
deal of work. Why invent thousands of words if a hundred will do?
The unfortunate truth is that Ogden and Richards cheated. They were able to reduce the
vocabulary of Basic English so much by taking advantage of idioms like make good for
succeed. That may save a word, but it's still a lexical entry that must be learned as a unit, with
no help from its component pieces. Plus, the whole process was highly irregular. (Make bad
doesn't mean fail.)
The Speedtalk idea may seem to receive support from such observations as that 80% of
English text makes use of only the most frequent 3000 words, and 50% makes use of only 100
words. However (as linguist Henry Kuera points out), there's an inverse relationship
between frequency and information content: the most frequent words are function words
(prepositions, particles, conjunctions, pronouns), which don't contribute much to meaning (and
indeed can be left out entirely, as in newspaper headlines), while the least frequent words are
important content words. It doesn't do you much good to understand 80% of the words in a
sentence if the remaining 20% are the most important for understanding its meaning.
George Orwell and the English Language
Orwell wanted desperately to preserve the English language and make it available for world use. It was
because of this that he embraced the idea of "Basic English," a system of language first proposed by C. K.
Ogden in his book The System of Basic English in 1934. Some say that this system is the basis of Newspeak,
which is an interesting paradox, since Newspeak was the result of the destruction of language, and Orwell
sought to preserve language.
Newspeak itself wasn't just a code-like language Orwell invented for pleasure, although he was interested in
that sort of thing. It was a statement of Orwell's belief in the power of language. Used the wrong way, even a
good idea like Basic English (in Orwell's opinion) could be turned to evil purposes. Orwell made Newspeak a
projection of the existing tendencies toward destroying English in politics. (Steinhoff, 167-9) Newspeak was
the foundation of doublethink. It was what gave the Inner Party the power to control other people's minds and
effectively maintain totalitarian rule. (Orwell, 1949)
Preface by George Bernard Shaw, 1941
"... There is, for instance, the Basic English of the
Orthological Institute at 10, King's Parade, Cambridge, by which
foreigners can express all their wants in England by learning 800
English words. It is a thought-out pidgin, and gets rid of much of
our grammatical superfluities. The Institute is, as far as I know,
the best live organ for all the cognate reforms, as the literary
Societies and Academies do nothing but award medals and read
historical and critical lectures to one another. ..."
Empires of the Mind?
K.E. Garay: "Empires of the Mind? C.K. Ogden, Winston Churchill and Basic English,"
Canadian Historical Association Historical Papers, 1988.
On 5 September 1943 Winston Churchill was awarded an honorary degree at
Harvard University. He used the occasion to deliver a typically
resonant and stirring speech on Anglo-American unity. He called the
"gift of a common tongue" a priceless inheritance and suggested that
in order to spread the common language even more widely throughout the
globe, "some months ago I persuaded the Ministers to study and report
upon Basic English. Here you have a plan. There are others but here
you have a very carefully wrought plan for an international language
capable of a very wide transaction for practical business and
interchange of ideas. The whole of it is composed of about 650 nouns
and 200 verbs or other parts of speech no more indeed than can be
written on one side of a single sheet of paper." ...
Archives of Basic English Foundation -- Institute of Education, U of London.
Title: Records of the Basic English Foundation
Basic English was developed by Charles Kay
Ogden (1889-1957) as an ‘international language' and as a system for
teaching English to speakers of other languages using a simplified
vocabulary of 850 words. In 1947, with the involvement of the Ministry of
Education, the Basic English Foundation was established to promote the
use of this system. Its main activity was translating and publishing books in
Basic English and, after a controversial history, it finally wound up its
activities in the 1960s.
Gallery of the Twentieth Century.
C. K. Ogden (1889-1957)
One of the Library's finest rare book and manuscript collections. Purchased in 1953 with
a grant made by the Nuffield Foundation to encourage research work in the field of communications,
it consists of about 5,000 volumes of carefully built special collections of rare books. ...
It formed an important part of the vast collection of Charles Kay Ogden, founder of the
Orthological Institute and author of Basic English . Ogden's own interests in language systems
are reflected in the subject matter of the UCL collection, ...
Korzybski letters [gone]
. . . the language of the book has been made so simple and straightforward that no boy or girl who is old enough to be interested in history would have any trouble in reading it. The book is, in fact, in Basic English ; so that not only the very young but even those with a very limited knowledge of English may make good use of it.
Dates of creation: 1947-1960s
Level of description: Level 2
Extent: c. 80 files
General History in Outline and Story (1938) by E. H. Carter and C. K. Ogden
I. A. Richards b.Feb 16, 1893; d.Sep 7, 1979 (he was 86)
News ; An Illustrated Chronology ; Checklist of Publications 1919 - 1978 ;
Checklist of Criticism on the works of I. A. Richards ; [pic, young] - 75kb
Richards and Ogden's next project together was 'Basic English',
a language composed of 850 English words that cover the needs of
everyday life. Richards spent several years in China trying to establish
'Basic English' as the method for teaching English there; he served as a
visiting professor at Tsing Hua University in Peking in 1929-1930 and
as director of the Orthological Institute of China from 1937 to 1938.
[ Site appears to be gone.]
I A Richards
[pic, mature] - 9kb
One of the most influential rhetoricians of our time, Ivor Armstrong Richards
has had an impact on numerous facets of rhetoric, linguistics, and literature.
In 1939 Harvard University invited Richards to direct the Commission of
English Language Studies and to produce Basic English textbooks and to train
teachers in the method of Basic English. While at Harvard, he saw that
television might become an important part of teaching.
The Rockefeller Foundation awarded him a grant to study cartooning and
animation at Walt Disney studios where he worked on developing a universal
script which could express various situations. With Christine M. Gibson,
Richards produced numerous textbooks over the years for teaching Basic
English in various languages. Ironically, despite its usefulness in teaching
English, Basic English was never accepted as the standard method for
teaching English anywhere.
Notes on Richards
There are many sites relating to his earlier work, before Basic English.
Back to: Ogden's Basic English Homepage or Basic English Institute
About this Page: BEWeb.html - Various listings about Basic English found on the Web.
Last updated January 25, 2002. New address-BE&Grammatical Reform; New site:B-E Forum
Created on December 20, 1996