Techniques In Language Control
3 . The Contribution of Basic
"What is the difference between visiting a man and going to see him, extracting a tooth and taking it out, forbidding a person solid food and saying he man not have it, preparing a meal and getting one ready, retiring at 10 P.M. and going to bed at that hour, rising at 7 A.M. and getting up then, dispatching a message and sending one, maintaining silence and keeping quiet, assisting your friends and helping them, commenting on something they do and making an observation about it, enlisting in one of the services and joining up, occupying a house and living in it, concentrating on your work and putting your mind on it? What we do is the same whether we bestow $10 upon a man or give it to him. The difference is a purely verbal one. We give an account in different words of the same thing. The second way of saying it is in every case a Basic way. It keeps to the vocabulary and rules of the system of Basic English."
So runs the opening paragraph of our "Learning Basic English." published as a companion volume to Basic English and Its Uses by W. W. Norton in 1944 and now available from University Microfilm. the concept of a minimal selection from the English language capable of representing with an examinable and sufficient degree of fidelity the meanings conveyable in full English originated with C. K. Ogden. The linguistic instrument which he invented began to take shape as far back as the early 1920's, an outcome of collaborative work on The Meaning of Meaning, and was refined and exhaustively tested for range of covering power over the next decade. The name BASIC which he assemble as an acrostic from British, American, Scientific, International, Commercial, was a word at that time in relatively little use. Its later vogue came about largely through responses to Ogden's work.
Today, so widely has English been spreading through the last four decades and so great have been developments in physical media that a more indicative acrostic may be suggested : Business, Administration, Science, Instruction, Communication. More of the world than we can easily imagine is already held together only through English -- of one sort or another. . . .
Basic is a system of everyday English words taking all the regular forms of normal English within certain limits. It is a selection of htose words which -- used as we are all using hem all the time -- will betweent htem do the most work. It is the smallest number of English words with a general enough coering power among them to let a man say almost anyting -- to say it well enough for his general day-to-day purposes in all the range of his interests however wide -- in business, trade, industry, science, medical work -- in all the arts of living and in al the exchanges of knowledge, belief, opinion, views, an dnews which a general-purpose language has to take care of.
Basic is a very small-scale language to have such a range of uses. It has only 850 headwords in it with rules for putting them to use, but these words for the most part go through all the changes of form which the same words in full, unlimited English go through. For example, take is one of these Basic words. So we say in Basic : I take, he takes, he is taking, he took, and it was taken and so on as in full English. So again we say I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours, and with the help of the word self, on the list, myself, ourselves, as in full English. There is nothing in god Basic which goes against the rules of good English. If someone's attempts at Basic are bad English then they are by that very fact bad Basic.
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. . . In its vocabulary you have all the key words of all thought, the words with which we manage, or try to manage, our ideas. By uncovering, as it were, the comparatively small body of concepts on which all thinking turns, it offer us words that can handle these ideas at the common-sense level. So claim teachers and writers who have found it an awakener of thought in themselves and in their students and addresses.
1 . See C. K. Ogden, Basic English: International Second Language, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1968.
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