Basic English

Michael Everson everson at
Thu Nov 26 16:01:43 CET 2015

On 26 Nov 2015, at 01:39, Shawn Steele <Shawn.Steele at> wrote:
>> On what grounds? It’s not even a pidgin. It’s just a limited vocabulary. 
> No, it's not just a limited vocabulary (IMO).

I think the Hemingway shows that it is. 

> With a limited vocabulary I have 1st grade English skills.  If I learn more words I have 2nd grade English skills.  Eventually I might make College Level English.

Of course. I have "survival Russian". I could learn more Russian. 

> With Basic English the limited vocabulary is a feature of the language.

A feature of the controlled variety of English, yes. It’s not Afrikaans. It’s not Friesian or Middle English. It’s obvious to any English-speaker that it’s English. To us, it’s just defective. 

> If I pull in full English words into Basic English, then I'm not just expanding my vocabulary, I've escaped the language and gone from Basic English to full English.


> That's because Basic English intentionally restricts the vocabulary.

As defined.

> Yes, it was intended as a stepping stone to full English, but it doesn't pass the mutually intelligible test.  (Once the Basic English speaker comprehends the full English text, they're no longer speaking Basic English.

I can understand Scouse. My father probably can’t. It’s still en-Scouse. Intelligibility of related linguistic entities is not always bi-directional. 

> IMO that's different than a dialect such as en-US and en-GB.  I can learn British English vocabulary to extend my knowledge of English, but I haven't broken the language by doing so.

The subtag describes the defective variety of English which it is. Its defectiveness doesn’t make it into a different language. 

> For example, I don't think you can really have a native speaker of Basic English.

OK. So?

> If you taught your kids basic English, they'd invent terms like a pidgin and extend the vocabulary.  In a generation or two you'd have something completely different than the simple English you started with and Basic English would have lost it's purpose. Those children would then need a Basic English v2 to achieve the original purpose.

Those children might devise a pidgin which might develop into a creole. 

> Basic English is interesting because it was designed with a limited vocabulary as a feature that isn't allowed to be extended (or at least has restrictions on how it may be extended).


> IMO it is disqualified as an "English" as a subtag because of this.

We disagree.

> To me it's not dissimilar to saying the English is a Germanic language. Therefore the language tag of English should be "de-en", because of course we have a lot of words in common (or at least close), like auto und machine.  

Erm, well. You could not read either of these without study, and they’re Germanic:

> Would Anglic or Amxrikai Spek count as subtags?

Sure. I understand that they are orthographies. 

> They may sound similar, but they're really hard to read.

So is Ñspel, another orthography.

Michael Everson *

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