Ogden's Basic English
AN ANNUAL OF GENERAL AND LINGUISTIC PSYCHOLOGY
Edited by C. K. OGDEN
VOLUME XIII, 1933
THE ORTHOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
- Basic Bible -- page 199
- Basic for Science -- page 205
- Round the World -- page 206
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.
Genesis, VI. 1. And when men
were increasing on the face of the earth, and giving birth to
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, in 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.
. . .
IX. 16. And the bow will be in
the clouds ; and my eyes will be upon it,
so that I may keep in mind the agreement which is for all times
between God and every living thing of every sort which is on the
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 used1 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 been
a 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 some of 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 these, 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.
1. A.S. Cook gives the number of different words in the Old Testament
as 5,642, and in the New Testament as 4,800.
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
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 J.M.Powis Smith and Edgar J. Goodspeed (Chicago, 1931).
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
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
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 of the 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 for any 'learning' which may be
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 Kyclif and Tyndale, of Cloverdale and Metthew,
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 wee 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 one 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 at 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 interest
to the man of letters ; it might even be of value to the worker in
Anthropology. And so, in the truest sense, the days of Bible would be
no more. See our examples of the Bible in Basic English
BASIC FOR SCIENCE
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 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 is now
being done by the American Standards Association, the American Institute
of Electrical Engineers, and the National Conference on Nomenclature of
Disease. 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 hot getting ready (in Basic), Basic
Rules of Reason, may be noted. It will certainly be out before
ROUND THE EARTH WITH 850 WORDS
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 :--
1 . First Steps based on the ABC.
2 . The ABC as a guide for teachers and private persons ;
in the language in question.
3 . Basic English, as a general account of the system.
4 . The Basic Words, with detailed examples of their
normal uses, and of the most important special senses and expansions ;
in the other language.
5 . A parallel to the The Basic Dictionary, putting the 7,000
commonest words of the other language into Basic.
6 . A Radio Learner's Guide.
The way is then open for school books of all sorts,
and for keys to 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
Kospoth-Pawlowsku 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 o 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.
(lists name and addresses of Basic English
representatives in 24 countries.)
(lists 22 books available from The Orthological
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