In learning any language it is necessary first of all to have some idea of the different sorts of words in that language.
There are more than 1,500 separate languages still in use, and they are as different as the clothing of those who make use of them ; so that no sort of word or form of dress has so wide a distribution as to seem natural in all parts of the earth.
In one country it may be the right thing to put a gold ring or a silver chain round the neck ; in another, the space between the chest and
the chin may be covered by jewels and ornaments, or by a colored cloth, for comfort ; or a soft collar may be common -- changed to a stiff one at night.
So it would be foolish to go everywhere with the question, "What sort of collar do they have here?" It is better to say : "What, if anything, do they put on their necks?" Or, again, "How are the legs covered?"
Then we are at least taking a general point of view, and there is less danger of getting a wrong answer -- or no answer at all.
It is the same with words. There may not be 'nouns,' 'adjectives,' 'verbs,' or 'pronouns' in every language ; but everywhere there are things.
So the first and most natural question about a language is, "What names has it for things?"
So we will make a start with the names of things ; but first of all it is necessary to get a sort of map of the system in its complete form.
1 . THINGS.
Of the 850 Basic Words, no less than 600 are names of things. It is important to have a good number of names for things, because if we went about with a knowledge only of the names of
things, we would be able to make ourselves clear for a very great part of the time.
Even without the names of things, we might, no doubt, get a long way by pointing, and by other acts and signs.
The trouble is that sometimes it is not clear what we are pointing at ; one thing gets in the way of another, and we may not be near enough to make ourselves clear.
But if we have a knowledge of the names of things, it is much more probable that our hearers will be in a position to see from the signs on our faces, or from our behavior, what we would have said if we had made use of other sorts of words.
The names of things take the place of pointing ; the other words, to which we are coming later, take the place of the other signs which we make.
a . Names of Things Which May Be Pictured. At a meal, for example, if we say "apple" when the fruit comes in, we may be almost as clear as if we say--"Please give me an apple."
The simplest words of all, then, are the names of the separate things which it is possible to get by pointing ; the things round the room, the things which are moved or marketed everywhere, one by one.1
In Basic there are 200 of these, and when the things of which they are the signs are not themselves present to be pointed at by the learner, a picture will do equally well. 2
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
If you are good at making pictures or copying them from books, see which of your pictures are rightly named by your friends ; and
why they go wrong when they give a wrong answer. Might your pictures have been more clear?
Is it a help to your memory to get some of the names two by two ; like boy and girl, sun and moon, hammer and nail, horse and cart, needle and thread? If so, make a list of those which go naturally together.
Put together all the words in the 200 which are names of different parts of clothing (boot, coat, collar, dress, glove, hat, pocket, shirt, shoe, skirt, sock, stocking, trousers). You have, in addition, button, hook, and band, which may go with them.
Now do the same with the parts of the body (such as arm, chin, hair, leg, knee, muscle, nerve, stomach, throat, toe, and tongue).
Then take the things in connection with the building of a house (arch, board, brick, floor, pipe, roof, screw, wall, window, and the rest) ; and from those go on to such as may be seen in a room (bath, book, box, curtain, cushion, drawer, lock, oven, and the like).
In this way you will quickly get an idea of the different groups of words in the Basic system.
What is this group representative of : cup, egg, fork, plate, potato, spoon, tray? (Meal)
Make a list of 10 names among the 200 about whose sound, form, and sense you have no doubt whatever. Let them be names of things which are generally near -- to be touched or seen.
These will be of use later as a sort of frame in which new words may be fixed for purposes of learning.
A different list will probably be necessary for every country ; but if the sounds are simple enough, here are 12 from which you may be able to make a selection : arm, hand, head, book, box, door, paint, paper, pen, side, table, tree.
b . General Names. Sometimes, though there may be no doubt that a word is used for a material thing, it is hard to give a clear picture of the thing itself ; a building, for example, or a mine.
This is because there are different sorts of buildings which themselves have pictures (such as church, house, hospital, library) ; and because a mine is not a separate thing.
All such words are grouped among the 400 'General names.'
Then there are solid substances ; metals, for example, such as copper. These are certainly very material. In fact they are what things are made of ; but only a little of them is in any one place, and even then it generally has the form of some other thing with a common name.
So it is hard to make good pictures of substances. But it is possible to take a bit of any one of them and make a change in its form or, with the help of a businessman, get money for it. With these come the liquids, like blood and milk.
Air, mist, smoke, and steam may be put in the same division because they are made up of material parts and their behavior is like that of substances ; and foods, like bread, butter, and cheese.
There are 50 words of this sort, and because they are names of substances they are almost as simple to get fixed in the memory as the words which go with pictures. Here is the list :
air, blood, brass, bread, butter, canvas, chalk, cheese, cloth, coal, copper, cork, cotton, dust, earth, glass, gold, ice, ink, iron, lead, leather, linen,
meat, milk, mist, oil, paint, paper, paste, powder, rice, salt, sand, silk, silver, smoke, snow, soap, soup, steam, steel, stone, sugar, tin, water, wax, wine, wood, wool.
Another important group of the general names, of which it is frequently possible to give the sense by pointing (and sometimes by pictures), is that of the parts or divisions of material things. Such are back, base, body, cover, edge, end, front, middle, page, side, top.
Then there are persons, named sometimes in relation to sex or family (man, woman, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister),
and sometimes because of what they do (cook, judge, manager, porter, servant) ; common acts (a shake, a bite, a grip, a kick, a kiss, a laugh, a smile, a cough, a sneeze --
or driving, reading, teaching, and writing) ; the divisions of time (minute, hour, day, night, week, month, year) ;
birth and death, summer and winter, peace and war, question and answer, cause and effect, work and play, profit and loss, art and science, color and
form, law, crime, and punishment, prose and verse ; words for the feelings (like pleasure and pain, hope and fear, love and hate, belief and doubt) ; words for the senses (like touch, taste, and smell).
At this point you will have got some idea of more than half the names of things and almost half the complete Basic word-list.
So this is the right place for a little note about the other general names which are not names of material things, or parts of material things, like the great mass of the words which we have taken first.
As separate words, they are happily all quite as simple in form as the names of material things ; but their behavior when put with other words is sometimes not so regular. A little more attention has to be given to them, till any tricks they may have are clear from examples.
With so small a number of words this is not hard ; and most of the necessary knowledge will come automatically from the examples themselves, from hearing others, and from reading.
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
Make a list of general names used for a number of things which themselves have pictures (animal, apparatus, building, insect, instrument, machine, plant, structure, vessel).
Make a list of those which are not separate from the other material things round them (harbor, mine, mountain, river, road, wave).
Put the 50 names of material things into four groups so that you may say 'a bit of ' (chalk, bread, and so on), 'a mass of ' (coal, stone, and so on), 'a drop of ' (blood, water, and so on), 'a grain of ' (powder, rice, sand).
Which will come into more than one group?
Because it is possible for all of them to be measured, you may say an 'amount of ' (any of them).
What other things (in addition to material substances) are frequently said to be measured, in the sense that 'more or less of ' them is talked about for purposes of comparison, though we are not able to put them in the scales?
(agreement, approval, change, competition, expansion, growth, increase, organization, pleasure, shame, and so on).
Here is a list of 100 of the simplest names of things which the learner will be wise to get into his head at a very early stage :
apple, baby, back, ball, bed, bell, bird, boat, book, box, boy, bridge, brother, cat, coat, color, country, cow, day, dog, door, dress, drink, egg, fall, father, fire, fish, floor, flower, fly, front,
garden, girl, grass, hair, hand, hat, head, help, hole, horse, house, light, look,
man, milk, money, mother, name, night, nose, paint, paper, picture, pig, place, plant, play, pull, rain, ring, room, run,
sand, school, shoe, side, sister, sky, sleep, snow, song, start, stick, stop, story, street, summer, sun, table, tail, thing, thought, top, town, train, tree, turn,
wall, walk, wash, water, way, wind, window, winter, wood, work, year.
c . Forms for Number. RULE. When a word is used for two or more things of the same sort, an 's' is put at the end of the word
There are four which make a change of form -- foot (feet) tooth (teeth), man (men), woman (women).
Trousers and scissors are themselves 'plural' (that is, more than one) as is clear from the form, but we may say "one leg of his trousers," or "one blade of the scissors."
There is no change for sheep. For talking, only these have to be specially kept in mind;3 and if you do go wrong it is not very important.
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
Make a list of all the words with the endings s and x, and put the
'plural' forms in writing, so that you may see how simple and natural the business of 'plurals' is in Basic English. Would 'glasss' or 'taxs' seem natural to you if you were free to give all 'plurals' their most simple form in writing?
The wool of sheep is cut with scissors to make trousers for men (and sometimes women).
That gives you 5 of the changes of form. Make a statement giving the other 2 changes of form --feet and teeth.
Put a mark against any of these words which have been given the
wrong 'plural' form : leafs, bores, seas, arches, crys, potatos, traies, horses, sleep, sheep, smashs.
There is one word which is not ever used in the 'plural.' Have you any idea which it is? (News)
Give some examples of words which, even without the addition of 's,' give the idea of number (group, committee, family).
What is the use of the s on all these words? We say : "I have two sheep." Why not say : "I have two brother"?
The answer is that in this example it is clear enough, but "Come with your sheep" is not clear if more than one sheep is to come with you.
So Basic, like other languages, is happy to make the change, even if a small number of the 850 words are not quite regular.
Two words, house and mouth, undergo a small change of sound with the addition of 's' : in houses the middle 's' is sounded as in was, and in mouths the 'th' is sounded as in the.
d . A (An 4) and THE. Sometimes a thing is talked about as any one of a group which has the same name ; sometimes as a special example about which something has been said before.
A man = any one man.
The man = "that man of whom you have knowledge."
If anyone says, "Please give me a camera," you are then free to make the selection from all the possible cameras in the stores.
But if he says the camera, you are limited to the special camera which he has in mind (one which, in his opinion, is equally clear in your mind).5
We do not normally put 'a(n)' before the names of substances, such as, 'gold' or 'snow,' because gold, for example, is not one of the things which are all in front of us to be talked about or pointed at ; only part of it is ever there.
Some other 'things' which are not substances, such as qualities or processes, are looked on in the same way. For example, we do not say 'a behavior' or 'a damage.'
But there is one special purpose for which a (n) is used before names of substances and other such words, and that is to give the sense 'a sort of.' So we say 'a gold unlike any other.'
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
If we are on an island and we have only one knife, would you say : Give me a knife, or the knife?
If your house has 4 doors -- one at the front, one at the back, and two at the sides -- would you say : Let us go in at a front door, or the front door?
Would it be possible to go in at the side door?
On a bright night we generally take a look at the moon, not a moon.
Why? Are there any other things which would generally be talked about with the, because there is only one of them? (Yes, the sun, the sky.)
Why do we generally give a push and a kick, not the push and the kick?
Make a selection of words like behavior, with which, because of their sense, a(n) will probably be least used (attention, control, cotton, silver, thunder, and so on).
What would be the sense of a cotton, a silver, a paint? What words are there which do not ever take a before them?
(For example, damage, learning, news, transport, waiting, weather.)
2 . QUALITIES
There are 150 names of qualities ('adjectives').6 They are used before the names of things to give some special idea about the thing -- a red book, the hard seat, cold air.
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
See what groups of names of qualifies it would be possible to make ; in relation, for example, to color, form, size, and feeling.
Put together all the words like red, which are names of simple
qualities, starting with the colors (blue, green, yellow, brown, black, gray, white) ; words like sharp, hard and soft, sweet and bitter, warm and cold which are the nearest to the senses ; then the names of simple feelings like happy, sad, tired.
Make a list of the 'adjectives' which are least like names of simple sense -- qualities (cheap and dear, hanging, political, and so on).
A third selection will have in it all the words which do not seem to come naturally into the first group or the second.
You will probably put quick into this third group ; if so, it will be because quick is used of motion, and motion is not a material thing, or a sense, or a feeling, but a change of place.
There may be more than one opinion about the sorts of qualities, so that the size of the groups given in different answers will be very different. But your answer will be of use in getting a general idea of the sorts of 'adjectives' in the Basic language.
These 25 names of qualities will probably be the simplest to get by heart first :
black, blue, clean, cold, dirty, first, good, great, green, hard, high, kind, last, like, long, new, old, open, ready, red, right, round, same, straight, white.
Give five names of qualities which might be used of a dog.
a . Opposites. Words like good and bad have opposite senses, and it is a good idea to get such words into your head together ; 50 of the names of qualities have opposites, and 40 of these are themselves names of qualities :
good-bad, straight-bent, sweet-bitter, warm-cold, kind-cruel, bright-dark, living-dead, cheap-dear, same-different, clean-dirty, wet-dry, true-false, strong-feeble, male-female, wise-foolish, past-future, red-green,
first-last, early-late, right-left, tight-loose, quiet-loud, high-low, separate-mixed, wide-narrow, young-old, private-public, smooth-rough, happy-sad, long-short, open-shut, complex-simple, quick-slow, great-small, hard-soft, hollow-solid,
general-special, normal-strange, thick-thin, black-white.
50 opposites are formed by putting un- before the name of the quality, though till the learner becomes expert in the art of writing it will be best to make use of not.7
able, automatic, beautiful, bent, broken, certain, chemical, clean, clear, common, complete, complex, conscious, cut, elastic, equal, expert, fertile, fixed, free, frequent,
happy, healthy, important, kind, like, married, medical, military, mixed, natural, necessary, normal, open, parallel, physical, political, probable, quiet, ready, regular, responsible, safe, smooth, solid, straight, sweet, tired, true, wise.
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
Make a list of the 10 words among the 50 opposites which are not in the list of twos
(awake, blue, certain, complete, delicate, ill, opposite, safe, secret, wrong).
Of these, opposite is another opposite of same (page 130) ; blue is the opposite of the color of an orange (page 188) ; wrong, of an expansion of the sense of right ; secret, of an expansion of the sense of open.
The opposite of delicate is frequently strong or rough ; of ill, healthy or well (page 147) ; of old, new. What General Names give opposites of awake, certain, complete, and safe ?
Make a list of 'adjectives,' like electric and political, which have no opposites of any sort in the Basic list.
What are the opposites of : tight, smooth, separate, sweet, private ?
Is present or past the opposite of future?
Do you see any quality which might be the opposite of fat?
Here are most of the opposites in verse :
Sweet-bitter, wide-narrow, quick-slow,
Thick-thin, living-dead, any-no,
Cheap-dear, late-early, high-low.
Hard-soft, simple-complex, black-white,
Red-green, public-private, wrong-right,
Rough-smooth, short and long,
Solid-hollow, male-female, loose-tight.
Wise-foolish, bent-straight, old and new,
Young-old, cruel-kind, false and true,
Loud-quiet, wet-dry, orange-blue.
For which of these are two opposites given here? (Old, short, and right.)
b . IS and ARE. Is and are are two forms of the word be (about which more is said on page 191).
To make simple statements, the word is (are, when there is more than one thing) is put between the name of the thing and a quality, or between two names of things.
Was (were, when there is more than one thing) takes the place of is for the past.
A ball is round. A bee is an insect. Words are signs. The cows are married. The last example was foolish.
Round, married, and foolish are said to be qualities or properties of the things named.8
But some qualities and names, when put together, do not make sense, like example 4, and you will have a better knowledge of any language if you are able to give reasons why any two words will not go together.
c . AND and OR. And is used for joining words together :
The man and the woman are married.
Or is used for the idea of one of two.
The man or the woman is married.
For other uses of the 'conjunctions' and and or, see page 159.
QUESTIONS AND EXAMPLES
Take the name of anything in the list, such as payment, and put different 'adjectives' with it in turn (an able payment, an acid payment, a violent payment, a sticky payment, and so on).
See which of them make sense in your opinion. Then take those which make good sense, such as a quick payment, and put the word is (or are) before one of the other 'adjectives' which go naturally with payment
(A quick payment is strange ; slow payments are natural ; a second payment is necessary, and so on) ; till you are quite certain how a payment may be talked about.
Then do the same with burst, flag, flame, pig, and verse. Now for the first time you are making complete statements, such as are used in normal discussion.
Put all the natural statements you are able to make about the sad story and sad stories (The sad story is ready ; sad stories are frequent) into past time.
What makes you so certain that some of the possible statements would be foolish? If it is the sense of the words, take care to get all the possible senses of the statement quite clear ; if it is our experience of things, keep in mind the fact that our experience may get wider.
Certain names of qualities are in need of special attention because they are less freely used than the others.
Some, such as chief, future, may only be used before the name they go with. Awake is not put before the name of a thing or person, but generally comes after some form of be.
Same is never used without the (or this or that) before it.
In most languages the senses of certain words make the same sort of adjustments necessary ; but ten minutes with a selection of examples, when all the rest of the work is done, will put anyone right with any that give trouble in Basic.