Reduced to 850 Words, Its Use May Become Universal.
THE problem of how to provide a universal language continues to tax the ingenuity of men. The latest suggestion is that the English language should be reduced to 850 basic words, and an article in The Forum explains how such a thing can be done.
“Basic English is a purely practical attempt to solve the problem of a universal (auxiliary) language.
“English is at present the natural or administrative language of over five hundred million people.
“The Basic Vocabulary thus selected provides a second language for the entire world. Esperanto and other artificial languages have attempted to do this, though with little chance of success, since there is no practical incentive to learn languages spoken only by scattered groupé of enthusiasts. The chief characteristic of Basic is the absence of verbs, and the reader of the accompanying translation must not be misled by the appearance of verb forms. The ten “operators” (put, go, etc.), which when combined with the “directives” (in, out, etc.) take the place of verbs (put in“insert;” go in= “enter”), are therefore the key to the system.
“Basic (British, American, Scientific, International, Commercial) English is designed in the first place for the needs of trade, travel, radio, talkie, and (with the aid of special supplementary vocabularies) science. It is therefore necessary to emphasize that literary activity in a universal language is of the nature of a tour de force. Those who appreciate the emotive side of language will always be well advised to master one or more of the literatures outside their own mother tongue; but for the tens of millions to whom words are not the chief means of artistic expression, or whose concern is with any form of communication other than literature, the less time wasted on the acquisition of superfluous verbal habits, the better.
“There are some, however, to whom a simple style such as Basic English demands will make a more direct appeal than all the elaborate tricks of the professional stylist. These will find in the present experiment not only a solution of the world’s most pressing problem, Debabelization, but a new impetus to clarity, economy, and understanding, which may lead the way to another literary renaissance.”
As an example of how basic English compares with ordinary English a passage is shown, printed first in ordinary English and then in basic, as follows:
“He brought his poor little supper into the tomb and began begging the weeping woman not to give herself up to useless grief, and not to break her heart with useless sobs : all men, he reminded her, came to the same end and the same last habitation. But she ivas annoyed by such plebeian condolences, and she struck her breast all the more violently, and tore off her hair to lay it on the body stretched before her.
“He took his poor little meal into the place of death, and said everything in his power to make the woman see how foolish it was to give herself up to bitter feelings and let her heart be broken by crying. All men, he said, came to the same end and the same last resting place. But she was made angry by such common comfort. Her blows only got more violent, and pulling out her hair, she put it on the body stretched before her.”
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