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Doug Osborn asks about restricted grammars, and
I would like to clarify some of the replies given
so far. (I receive the messages from this list
in digest form, so I do not have any replies sent
after 19 September, and I apologize for repeating
any information in more recent replies.)
Basis English is the 850-word list with grammatical
rules developed by C.K. Ogden, along with I.A. Richards,
the rhetorician. It was developed in the late 1920s,
and after the Second World War there was a great
deal of interest in the promotion of Basic English
as an international language; moreover, the project
reportedly received the support of Churchhill
and Roosevelt. See Richards, I. A. Basic English and
Its Uses. New York: W.W. Norton Company Inc., 1943,
for some of the details of this story. You will also find
the 850-word list in this book, if I remember correctly.
It seems that Basic did not "get off the ground", however,
and a recent English linguist laments that "we" may have
given up too quickly on Basic. The real problem with
Basic, as a lexicon for technical communication, is that
it contains too much and too little: too much in the way
of general words, such as comb, stick, play (noun), insect,
happy, and too little in terms of technical vocabulary.
But then, it was meant to be a subset of Standard English
for purposes of social communication. See Peterson, D.A.T.
~Developing a Simplified English Vocabulary?. Technical
Communication 2Q, 130-132, 1990.
In any case, Caterpillar developed its Caterpillar Fundamental
English in the late 1970s. It contained 743 words and was
used for producing English documents that would not be
translated. See Sanderlin, Stacey. ~Preparing Instruction
Manuals for Non-English Readers?. Technical Communication.
2Q pp. 96-100, 1988, and also Kirkman, John. Good Style:
Writing for Science and Technology. London, U.K.: E & FN Spon,
1992, for more details. As many of you know, Caterpillar has
more recently developed Caterpillar Technical English, which
has software-controlled support in the form of ClearCheckTM, with
the view to establishing pure machine translation. See
Gallup, Sharlene, ~Caterpillar Technical English and Automatic
Machine Translation? in Proceedings 40th Annual General Meeting
of the Society for Technical Communication, 421-424, 1993.
Simplified English, as least one form of it, is perhaps the
most restrictive of all the restrictive grammars in existence.
It was developed by the Association europeene des constructeurs
de materiel aerospatial (AECMA), along with the American Transport
Association (ATA), for use in aircraft maintenance and operations
manuals. See Gingras, Becky. ~Simplified English in Maintenance
Manuals?. Technical Communication 1Q, 24-28, 1987, for more
details. AECMA contains about 2600 items (!), but that includes
all technical names and manufacturing processes for the aircraft
industry. If you are looking for a more "generic" Simplified
English, see Peterson's article in Rubens, Philip. Science and
Technical Writing: A Manual of Style. New York: Henry Holt and
And this is just the tip of the iceburg. I hope that I
have made it clear that there are many different "restrictive
grammars", which means that it is up to the person, or company,
who wishes to use some form of controlled English to make
some difficult choices about terminology and writing rules. I
would also suggest that you consult Kirkman's work for a
discussion of the subject of writing for international audiences.
Ralph F. Calistro, Ph.D.
calistro -at- bnr -dot- ca