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HomeUncategorizedCharles Kay Ogden's Basic English

Charles Kay Ogden (1889 – 1957) was a linguist, philosopher and writer. He was often described to be a bit eccentric and an outsider. He is most well known as the inventor of what is called “Basic English” and it is this invention that this article is going to focus on.

Having graduated from Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charles went on to become an author and editor. It wasn’t until 1925 that he created Basic English, but the advocacy of this simplified version of English became his main focus from this time until his death in 1957. During this time, he translated a few different works into Basic English, one of the more famous ones being a translation of a passage from Finnegans Wake in 1932.

Basic English is actually a simplified version of the English language. Ogden claimed that with a list of 850 words, plus another 150 specific words for the type of job that the speaker does, the person would be able to fully communicate in a way that native English speakers could easily understand.

Basic English simplifies the English language with a limited vocabulary and a limited range of grammatical rules. This simplified version, Ogden argued, is easy enough for people to speak whilst at the same keeping it normal for native speakers. However, this method is heavily focused on producing the language. If a student only learns these 850 words, it remains to be seen how the student is going to easily understand a native speaker with a vocabulary of hundreds of thousands of words!

Nevertheless, Ogden carried on with his work and produced a list of 850 core words that should be enough for people to use for everyday life. He divided this list into 5 parts, operations, general words, things, qualities (descriptive words) and qualities (opposites).

On top of this list, Ogden assumed that any student would be familiar with about 200 ‘international’ words. Therefore, he says that a student would possess 200 international words, 850 core English words, and a further 150 words specific for everyday work in a particular field. Thus bringing the number of words up to 1200.

However, his work has attracted much criticism from others in the field of linguistics. Some say that it is too basic and that the vocabulary chosen is too restrictive. Therefore, the speaker’s ability to communicate effectively is severely hindered. Furthermore, when used in teaching English as a Second Language, the grammar is too constrained to give students a full understanding of the English language and its complexities.

Source by William A Lake


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