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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pianeers of Language Planning          477
kept on the fire long enough with the right things—and so forth
Advocates of Basic may reasonably reply that this concern for our
common humanity is spurious, that early training by the method of
definition would do much to raise the general intellectual level of
mankind, and that the main thing for the beginner is to get self-confi-
dence as soon as possible^ at the risk of a little long-windedness
The focus of intelligent criticism is the form of verb-economy which
Ogden has chosen His critics point out that those who have used
Basic idiom as a substitute for the more usual type of Anglo-American
in examples such as those cited above already know Enghsh and have
no doubt about the meaning of such combinations as get for or go with
Is the correct idiomatic construction for the verb of another language
equally obvious, if we do not already know English^ Is it certain that a
foreigner will deduce from its literal meaning the idiomatic verb in the
sentence Martha had her hands full of the work of the house? This diffi-
culty comes out in three ways of translating into Basic idiom each of
the highly indefinite native verbs (a) try, (J) ask
(a) attempt        = make an attempt at
test             = put to the test
judge           = be the judge of
© question       — put a question about
request         = make a request
invite           — give an invitation
Though it is quite correct Enghsh to put a question and make a
request^ it is difficult to see why a Chinese should prefer these forms
to making a question or putting a request Indeed the Chinaman would
be at home in his native idiom if he took advantage of the fact that
attempt^ test, judge, request, question, can all be used as verbs or nouns,
and that we request the presence of a person when we invite him By
exploiting this most remarkable feature of Enghsh word-economy it
would be easy to devise a word-list no longer than that of the official
Basic 850 without recourse to this bewildering multiplicity of idioms
We could also include a few words such as purchase, which can be verb
(to purchase), noun (the purchase of), or adjective (purchase price), with-
out such periphrases as give money for when we have to refer to an
activity of daily occurrence This way of solving the problem of verb-
economy has another advantage The Basic construction is long-
winded The Chinese trick is snappy
It goes without saying that any attempt to simplify Anglo-American
within the framework of generally accepted conventions has a ready