logo Learning Basic English, Chap 3. The Rules

The Rules, part b

Reminder List of Basic Detail

    1. DO use possessives as well as plurals of nouns and pronouns: men's, their, ourselves, mine.
    2. DO use words as different parts of speech from those listed (except as verbs). Most such uses are occasional only, but here are some more common examples:
        a THING as an adjective--a light color (but a light touch, no)
        a THING as an adverb--they went forward and back
        a QUALITY as a noun--the hollow of his hand
        a QUALITY as a directive--round her neck
        a QUALITY as an adverb--it is raining hard
        an OPERATIONS word as an adjective-- her little finger the number one as a pronoun--one does these things
    3. DO use irregular forms of comparison as well as -er, -est : more, most; less, least; better, best; worse, worst; farther, farthest or further, furthest.
    4. DO use -ly for possibly, probably, certainly as well as adverbs of manner, and spell variations like electrically, angrily, simply as in full English.
    5. DO use not instead of un- for negatives of regular, probable, dependent, etc., till beginners are ready for additional spelling problems.
    6. DO use -er, -ing, -ed endings on all nouns that will take them, to form: (a) two new nouns: the whistling of the farmer; (b) two new adjectives: the damaged end of the sloping roof; the end has been damaged; the roof is sloping. (Note particularly that too general names and 100 picturables, all that have the three endings in full English, are listed on page 88 of the ABC of Basic English, which gives a detailed discussion of their noun and adjective uses. Others, like runner and running which have no -ed~ ending, may also be used, but with discretion.)
    7. DO use -er endings also on nouns and adjectives on the list which end in -ing (except meeting and morning).
    8. DO use -er and -ing endings on six adjectives: clean, cut, dry, open, separate, shut (doubling the last letter where necessary as with cutting, shutter). Occasionally -ed endings are also used to form adjectives meaning "having whatever is named by the root-word" from words and compounds that do not take the other endings (winged, dark-haired, halfhearted).
    9. DO use -er, -ing, -ed on please in the OPERATIONS column.
    10. DO use any combination of words to form compounds if their meanings are clear from the separate words. International words, operators, derivatives may form parts of compounds: postcard, overseer, beeswax, upside dawn, looking glass, good-looking, left-handed, etc. A few others not self-evident but allowed for usefulness are: anyhow, away, become, cupboard, however, income, inside, outcome, outside, today, somehow, upright, well-off, without.
    11. DO use extensions of meanings like the leg of a chair, the seed of an idea. Expansions from root senses are discussed in the ABC, pages 90-98.-
    12. DO use a narrowed meaning, or specialization, like a chalk, a cloth, a paper, an operation. A word may not have more than one specialization (ABC, pages 96-98) though expansions from the root sense are often numerous. (Note that some expansions and all specializations as well as compounds and derivatives are included in an alphabetic listing of the word list in The Basic Words.)
    13. DON'T use anything un-English. If it's bad English it's bad Basic.
    14. DON'T use any but the is operators as verbs. This means allowing He is Laughing, it was produced, etc., as adjective constructions but not He laughed or She had produced it.
    15. DON'T uses any prefixes but Un- or any suffixes but -er, -ing, -ed, -ly. You cannot build words like personify from person on the list, or enforce from force.
    16. DON'T drop off parts of words on the list to form new words from what is left. You cannot make know from knowledge on the list or read from reading.
    17. DON'T form adverbs in -ly unless they are adverbs of manner. Good, like, short, hard, do not form adverbs of manner by adding -ly. Words thus formed have different sorts of meanings from happily (in a happy manner) and are confusing to the beginner.
    18. DON'T use a Basic- word in any sense that has no clear connection with its other senses:
as is not used for "because" or "while"
back has no clear connection "with "backing a horse"
ball is not used for a "dance"
base is not a substitute for "bad"-
bit may not be used for a horse's "bit"
box may not be a "box" on the ears or "boxing" in a ring even is not to mean "level"
kind may not mean "sort"
lead may not give "leader" of a group
left may not be used as the past form -of "leave"
light may not provide an opposite for "heavy"
liver may not be used for an organ of the body
match may not mean "competition"
measure may not be used for "law"
net has nothing to do with prices
present is not a synonym for "gift"
respect is not an equivalent for "way"
ring may not be a. ring of the bell
scales do not cover fishes
start is no equivalent for "jump"
stick may not have anything to do with sticking stamps on letters
table is no substitute for "list"
that may not be used in place of "who" or "which"
will may not express the idea of purpose
    EXERCISE X. And now to put your Basic to the test. Work through the. following exercise, revising at points where it goes out into wider English. You may find occasional sentences that are quite correct already, and you will certainly find others in which whole phrases have to be recast to get rid of a non-Basic word or two. They make a connected narrative, you will notice, though numbered for your convenience as separate sentences. Read the whole thing through before starting on the revision, since context will frequently have to be your guide to a Basic substitute for wider English words.
    Take, for example, the very simple instance of the one non-Basic word in Sentence 1. In some contexts town would be too general a term to substitute. Some discussions might demand the distinction between great or important towns-or towns with episcopal sees or municipal governments-and smaller or less important towns. A glance through this narrative will show that no such distinction is expected here. City is town as opposed to country or suburbs as in Cowper's "God made the country, and man made the town" (and Cowper makes a 100 per cent Basic score!). Except for complete beginners who would find it easier to handle "to the town," the obvious translation here would be "to town."

    1 . Yesterday Mrs. Jones had to go to the city.
    2 . She went by road and returned by train.
    3 . While she was there she found that three of her friends had been waiting for her at the station two hours.
    4 . Someone had said that she would be on the morning train and when she wasn't on the first they had stayed for the second.
    5 . She could not get word to them till o'clock, and then it was too late to tee them.
    6 . The town was full of women shopping for Christmas trees.
    7 . There were no lighted Christmas trees this year because of the war.
    8 . Men in uniform were everywhere in the streets.
    9 . Mrs. Jones got some kid gloves for her sister and a new hat for herself.
    10. It was raining when she came out of the last store, though earlier in the day it bad been snowing.
    11. "I must take a taxi," said Mrs. Jones to herself, "or I shall get wet."
    12. When she was driving to the station she saw an old man moving slowly under the weight of a heavy burden.
    13. He would have walked right into the path of the car if the taximan had not sounded his horn.
    14. At her request the car came to a stop and she made a motion to the old man. He seemed surprised and put his great bag down on the wet ground.
    15. "That is a heavy thing to put on your back," she said. "Is it necessary? Are you going far with it? What is it?"
    16. "Oh, nothing much. ma'am," answered the old man. "But it is all I have in the world. I am going to my daughter's house. She will give me a bed."
    17. "Why will she have to?" said Mrs. Jones. "Is something wrong? Where is her house, and why do you go over there in all this rain? You are wet through and so is the bag."
    18. "I have nowhere else to go," said the old man simply. "I had a room in my sister's house but the house has been burned, and everything in it."
    19. "What are they doing then?" By this time all thoughts of her train home had quite gone out of Mrs. Jones's mind. She was deeply interested in the old man's dilemma.
    20. "They will get some insurance," he said. "But that will take time. The papers are burned. They have gone to a friend's house near by, but she has a great many children and there is no room for me."
    21. "Well, do get in here," said Mrs. Jones. "You are as wet as you can be by now, but that is no reason why you should go on in the rain with all those things on your back. Put them in the front of the car."
    22. The old man was very grateful. He could hardly get his great bag onto the running board of the car and the taximan had to help him, but at last the things were inside and he got in after them.
    23. "Perhaps I can do something for you some day, ma'am," he said to Mrs. Jones. "This lift will make it possible for me to get over before dark. The house is on Pine Street in the North End."
    24. "But that is across the river," said Mrs. Jones in surprise. "Were you going to walk all that distance? It would take hours."
    25. The old man was silent. Where was the money coming from to get there any other way? He did not want to admit to her that he was penniless.
    26. She wondered how she could help him. She would keep quiet until she saw what sort of house the daughter lived in. Perhaps she would be in a position to help him.
    27. They came presently to a stop. There was some trouble ahead and a long line of waiting cars. The old man, moving surprisingly quickly for his age, took this opportunity of getting out of the car and, before she saw what he was doing, had motioned the driver to put down his bag.
    28. "That was very good of you," he said quietly to Mrs. Jones. There was something in his manner that made it impossible for her to detain him. "The house is just around the corner," he said, and took up the great bag.
    29. He was gone from her life as abruptly as he had entered it, and as unexpectedly. She had an impulse to send the taximan running after him or go herself. He might be in great need. What if his daughter was out? What would he do in this rain, and with no money in his pocket?
    30. Whatever he did he would do without her help, which seemed clear enough. He had let her give him a certain amount of assistance but there was a limit to what he would take from a stranger. She might as well go back to the station and get her train. She would be too late for dinner but food was the last thing she wanted anyway. The old man probably wouldn't get any food.

    KEY : The numbers following correspond to those in the paragraphs above :

1.	city
2.	returned
3.	found
4.	stayed
5.	could
6.	shopping
8.	uniform
9.	kid

11.	must . . . shall
12.	heavy burden
13.	walked . . . path  
13.	car
14.	ground
15.	heavy thing
16.	answered . . .
17.	over
18.	. . . else
19. 	home
20.	many children

21: 	. . . can . . .
	. . . should . . .
22.	. . . grateful

	could hardly

	running board . . . car

	help (v)
23.	perhaps . . . can
24.	walk (v) . . . ?.
25.	silent
	want . . .
26.	wondered . . . could help

to town
came back
She got word, saw, made the discovery, news
came to her,  etc.
had gone on waiting, kept waiting,  etc.
 was not able to
by the clock-or omit a little late, not possible, there was no time to
going in and out of the stores, with Christmas lasts or parcels,  etc.
military,  or special dress
soft leather or skin (but no such detail as
    made from the skin of a young goat necessary!)
I'll have to . . .  will
under a great weight, with a great weight on his back
got right in the way of, gone right in front of automobile, taxi
put his hand on, made use of, made a noise with, got ... working
automobile, taxi
street  (not earth,  in town thoroughfare)
great weight
said, was the old man's answer
on earth
(over, like  right in 13, is a double-starred idiom but permitted)
no other place
seriously would be clearer for beginners
all the room is needed for her family, she has no space for me,
       she has six (or seven) in her family
wet through, as wet as may be
for going
automobile, taxi
touched; "that is very kind of you," said the old man;
      the old man said what a great help that would be
it was hard for him to, it took two or three
     attempts for him to, etc.
up to the taxi, onto the step of the taxi, onto the foot board
     (Though run does not take the three endings, running and runner
      may be used in clear contexts. Even so, the meaning of
      running board would not be clear.)
give him help
I may be able to, I may have (or get)a chance to
were you going . . . . on foot?
made no answer, said nothing
he had no desire to let her see, he was not going to say
without a penny, had no money
What would it be possible to do for him?,
      She kept turning over in her mind possible ways of helping him

    The key, as you will have noticed, makes no attempt to exhaust the possible alternatives at points where restatement is necessary. The suggestions given are sufficient to exhibit some of the devices to which Basic may resort. Sometimes a wider word at a higher level of generalization is all that is needed in the context (dilemma is a type of trouble; kid (in gloves) a sort of skin; dinner a certain meal of the day). Sometimes a more specific, narrower, less general term will do the necessary work, as with taxi for car (with a private car the reference might sometimes be made in terms of the make, e.g. Ford, Oldsmobile).
    At points, even in a simple bit of narrative like this one, Basic forces one to be analytical in reaching a decision about which narrower term perhaps (what sort of wanting, a desire, or a need?) or in handling a descriptive touch in terms of details of appearance or behavior which gave rise to it. (How did Mrs. Jones know that the old man was grateful?) Very little experience of the pocket language is needed to show what a sharp little instrument it can be for separating facts from feelings, what is happening from the way it is affecting people. Basic cannot talk of a taint of this or that in the electioneering speech of a rival candidate but can substitute suggestion. It is not only adjectives in full English that are heavy with value judgments. It is amusing to use Basic in one's daily discourse for a bit, and see what an astringent it can be.

    EXERCISE XI. Now go on with the writing of simple Basic. Try any or all of the following :
   1. A continuation of the above narrative -- another encounter between Mrs. Jones and the old man, perhaps.
    2. An account of some experience of your own.
    3. A description of the room you are sitting in, in terms of its Basic contents and characteristics.
    4. A letter to somebody.
    5. An account of the system of Basic English which might be made into a compact informative recording.
    6. An account of the nature or structure or operation of anything else.

    Here are a few extracts from straightforward Basic exposition, made in some instances by beginners with no more practice than these two -chapters give in manipulating the small vocabulary. The first, an anecdote, is one of those not infrequent instances of "natural," accidental Basic, occurring in this case in a daily paper. The last, a summary account of the system, is one of Mr. Ogden's most recent statements about its design.

    1. "I won't go on living with you any longer! I'm going straight off to mother, and won't come back again ever! So there! What -are you doing with the telephone?"
    "Only seeing about a train for you." - That Wasn't Slow; another title, in Basic might be Sort of Quick on the Uptake.-

    2. "If you have not ever been to Nantucket Island you certainly have a great experience before you. The six-hour journey down and back on the boat from Boston is interesting in itself, but you will not get the feeling of the island in a day. You have to put in a quiet week there, getting used to the old 'salt-box' houses and the narrow streets with uncommon names such as 'India,' 'Orange' and 'York.' If you do some reading about Nantucket's history of fishing and trading on all the seven seas before you make your journey you will get pleasure out of a walk on the waterfront, picturing in your mind what it was like in years past before the traders and their strong ships had been 'put out of business."-Tenth Grade Student Theme

    3. "Best of all the instruments used in the war plants today is the 'Broach' (quickly-working toothed metal cutter). For record-time hollowing out of metal, cutting smooth curves, machining inside and outside forms, the Broach is an answer to today's needs in war industry. It is pointing to a future of even sharper limits in machining, greater output and a wider range of operations -- a future which will see the Broach used in important developments in industry everywhere and theproducing of better goods in all parts of the earth."--Instruments for This Day and Tomorrow, Lapointe Machine Tool Company Advertisement.

    4. "The sons of Israel have made an agreement to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest forever. The Sabbath is a sign of this agreement between God and the sons of Israel. For in six days God made Heaven and Earth and, ending His work on the Sabbath, He made it a day of rest."--Basic Readings, by Elizabeth Koch Darlington

    5. "New words are formed from some three hundred things in Basic by the addition of -ing, -er, -ed endings. Names of substances and materials as well as common acts may take these endings, the -er sometimes giving the name of a person doing the act or using the material (a joiner, a painter) and sometimes the name of an instrument (a strainer or a stretcher). A duster might be the person taking off dust or a cloth used in the operation; a milker a man or a machine. Then again, when an operation is named by an -ing extension, the connection between the person or instrument in question and a substance named by the root word may be different at different times. Dusting fruit trees isn't taking dust off them as a rule, any more than dusting a table is putting some powdered substance on."--Five Steps in Writing Basic, Orthological Committee, Cambridge, Mass.

    6. "There is one group of evergreen trees which has red wood on the inside and white wood on the outside. I came across a stick of this wood cut for-firewood and got interested in making something in which the white would be used for one part and the Ted for the other. The white wood made the hair and the red wood the body of a woman. It was simple work cutting the form, for the wood was quite soft. It took a beautiful polish. I made use of a knot of specially dark color for the face. The knot was very hard cutting, so there is but a suggestion of the face. From the side view you get a suggestion that the person is moving. The front view of the form seems to give a suggestion of balance. It is so thin from the front position that it does not seem to be the same structure as you see from the side. To keep the form from falling over, I made a round, thin plate for a base.".--Wood Forms, by Erastus S. Allen

    7. "It was put up in the time of Ch'ien Lung, the great Emperor, this beautiful example of the Mongolian way of building. You will see it today if you go to Peiping, the old Royal town of China. There, away from the noise and motion of present-day living, is a walled-in park, the Winter Palace where for hundreds of years, among the trees and grass and flowers, and under a bright red Pailou (special Chinese form of arch) of hand-cut wood goes a little twisting road, a road made of bits of colored stones in complex designs. This road takes you slowly from Pailou to Pailou, past houses and gardens, over a small slope, and from here to the edge of the water. Blue water, quiet water, its sides marked by a railing of white hand-cut stone, shaded by tall old trees, lighted by the stars at night, and in late summer, a mass of white and soft red from the Lotus flowers. And a little way back from the water, on a softly sloping man-made mountain, is the Dagoba. Its base is a Chinese house with a Chinese roof, green and gold, and on this is a round gray structure with a rounded top ending in a straight white point, tall and strangely beautiful. A simple building, with a simple history." --China Old and New, by Pin Pin T'an

    8. "For those who are meeting Basic English in this book for the first time, we give here a short outline of the system. A full general account for readers of English is given in the book Basic English, and a more detailed one for learning purposes in The ABC of Basic English. The last-named may now be had in most of the chief languages of Europe-French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch-and will in a short time be ready in all.
    "Basic is English made simple by limiting the number of words to 850, and the rules for managing them to the smallest number necessary for the clear statement of ideas as conditioned by the structure of the language. 1hat with so small a word-list and so little apparatus it is possible to say anything desired for the purpose of everyday existence is the outcome of the special . . . system of word-selection, together with the great step -- a step based on a natural tendency of English, and possible in no other European language of the present day -- of cutting out 'verbs' (see Basic English and Grammatical Reform).
    "The 850 words are in three groups-600 names of things, 150 names of qualities ('adjectives'), and 100 'operations' by which the system is, so to say, put into motion. Of these, 15 are the names of simple acts, such as put, which, with be, will, and may, are the only 'verbs' in Basic, others being covered by the use of one of these with some limiting word, chiefly the name of a direction or position ('enter,' for example, becomes in Basic 'go in'). These 18 'verbs' are used as in normal English. undergoing whatever changes of form are necessary in different relations. The same thing is true of the 'pronouns' I, he, you, this and that. As in normal English, the addition of s is made to the names of things as a sign that more than one is in question, and of -er and -est to the names of qualities as a sign of degree. Adverbs' are formed by putting -ly at the end of names of qualities; opposites, by putting un- in front. Three hundred names of things may take the endings -er, -ing, and -ed, producing two more names of things and two names of qualities, whose sense will give no trouble.
    "Every word has a root sense, which may give birth, by simple expansion, to one or more further senses having a clear connection with it, or may have a special, limited use in addition to its more general one. All these are made clear in The Basic Words, where are printed, further, 250 fixed word-groups, or 'idioms,' which are of value chiefly in making the English of Basic smooth and natural. The expansions and idioms possible in Basic are limited to those listed, and the fact that a word is in the Basic 850 is not to be taken as a sign that it may be used in all the senses and ways come across in wider English. Fifty international words, about which the experts are in agreement, together with the English names of the days and months, are, like the number-system, looked on as a ready-made addition to the Basic store.
    "So much for Basic as an international language for everyday use. For the purpose of science, the framework is, naturally, the same, and science for the general public has need of nothing more. .At that level, if special science words are necessary, they are made clear as they come in-a process which is of great help to the reader, and is made simple for the writer by the fact that the Basic words are those of special value in making clear the senses of others. But in writings designed for those trained in science, the word-list is increased by another 100 words covering the general language of science, and 50 more for the needs of any special branch. For writing or reading biology, for example, it will be necessary to have knowledge of 1,000 (850 plus 150) English words. (The same is true for the Bible and for other special fields.)
    "As we have said, for the expert there are thousands of international words which may be used more or less freely. At this level Basic is, before everything, an important instrument by which special word-lists, most of them international, may be put into operation." -- "The Basic Framework" in Basic for Science, C. K. Ogden, London, Kegan Paul, 1943, pp. 32-35.
    < prev a     next >