A History of ‘Basic English’, A Language Economy That Limits Vocabulary to a Mere 850 Words

In a fascinating episode of their incredibly informative whiteboard series for Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill explain the history of “Basic English“. Basic English is based upon an ambitious controlled natural language economy conceived by British linguist C.K. Ogden, who sought to boil down English into a mere 850 necessary words.

Ogden believed a restricted English would make the language more efficient and easier to learn. He also thought it would help us think more clearly. …So which 850 words are the necessary ones? He discovered he could get rid of almost all the verbs, replacing them with phrases using basic operators like come, go, have, make, and be.