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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning           473
This is not altogether surprising Because English spelling teems
with irregularities., and still more because of the vast resources of its
hybrid vocabulary, learning English is not an easy task for anyone who
amis to get a wide reading knowledge So academic linguists trained in
sedentary pursuits overlooked the astonishing ease with which a
beginner can get a good working knowledge of the Anglo-American
interlanguage as a vehicle of unpretentious self-expression. C K Ogden
and his colleague, I A Richards, are largely responsible for the growing
recognition of the merits which won high tribute from Grimm Ogden
and Richards chose Anglo-American usage as the case material of 7 he
Meaning of Meaning^ a handbook of modern logic What began as an
academic examination of how we define things, led one of the authors
into a more spacious domain Hitherto we had thought of English as
the language with the large dictionary Ogden's work has taught us to
recognize its extreme word economy
To resolve this paradox the reader needs to know the problem which
Ogden and Richards discuss in their book Latent in the theme of the
The Meaning oj Meaning is the following question: what is the absolute
minimum number of words we need to r£tow,if we are to give an intelligible
definition of all other words in Webster's or the Oxford Dictionary?
The answer is, about 800, or between two and three months* work for
anyone willing to memorize twelve new words a day This great potential
word-economy of Anglo-American is due to the withering away of
ward-forms dictated by context without regard to meaning We have had
many examples of this process, especially in Chapters III, IV, and
VII Our natural interlanguage has shed redundant contextual dis-
tinctions between particles and between transitive and intransitive
verbs We can now do without a battery of about 400 special verb-
forms which are almost essential to ordinary self-expression in French
or German This is not disputed by critics who carp at the absence of
names for everyday objects in Ogden's 850 Basic Word List, and it is
not necessary to remind readers of the Loom that Anglo-American has
another supreme merit which pioneers of language-planning, other than
the great linguist Henry Sweet, were slow to realize
Academic British grammarians, with few notable exceptions such as
Bradley, have always been apologetic about the flexional "poverty5* of
English, and disposed to fondle any surviving flexions they could fish
up. In fact, there are only three surviving obligatory flexions which we
need to add to our items for a serviceable vocabulary of new words
(a) -s (for the third person singular of the present tense, or for the