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Basic English


Basic English

Basic English and Its Uses, by I.A. Richards (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1943)


A version of the English language "made simple by limiting the number of its words to 850, and by cutting down the rules for using them to the smallest number necessary for the clear statement of ideas" (I.A. Richards).

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Named by British linguist C.K. Ogden in Basic English (1930)


  • "Basic English, though it has only 850 words, is still normal English. It is limited in its words and its rules, but it keeps to the regular forms of English. And though it is designed to give the learner as little trouble as possible, it is no more strange to the eyes of my readers than these lines, which are in fact in Basic English. . . .

    The second point to make clear is that even with so small a word list and so simple a structure it is possible to say in Basic English anything needed for the general purpose of everyday existence . . ..

    The third most important point about Basic is that it is not merely a list of words, governed by a minimum apparatus of essential English grammar, but a highly organized system designed throughout to be as easy as possible for a learner who is totally ignorant of English or of any related language. . . ."
    (I.A. Richards, Basic English and Its Uses, Kegan Paul, 1943)

  • "Basic has three weaknesses: (1) It cannot be a world auxiliary language, an avenue into standard English, and a reminder of the virtues of plain usage at one and the same time. (2) Its dependence on operators and combinations produces circumlocutions at times unacceptable in standard English . . .. (3) The Basic words, mainly common, short words like get, make, do, have some of the widest ranges of meaning in the language and may be among the most difficult to learn adequately."
    (Tom McArthur, The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press, 1992)
Also Known As: BASIC, Ogden's Basic English

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