What is Minimal English?
Minimal English is “a highly reduced version of English which can ensure maximum translatability without compromising intelligibility” (Goddard & Wierzbicka, in press). The core vocabulary is approximately 300 words. Minimal English attempts to build on the advantages of English as a global lingua franca, while reducing the disadvantages. There have been various other attempts at “simplified English”, for example Basic English (Ogden 1930) and Globish (Nerrière 2004), however none of these previous attempts have taken translatability into account.
Minimal English is based on semantic primes and universal semantic molecules, plus other near-universal words, i.e. simple, cross-translatable words. But at the same time, it can be adapted to suit particular contexts, by adding limited numbers of more culture-specific words, e.g. government, plastic, mosquitoes. Minimal English aims to be “minimally English”. It ought to correspond closely with other minimal languages, such as Minimal Chinese, Minimal Spanish, etc.
Although Minimal English is based on research by linguists working in the NSM approach, it is not NSM. It is different in purpose and in composition. Minimal English is intended for use by non-specialists, for a wide and open-ended range of functions. It is a tool that can help people to say things in a way that is easier to understand and to translate across a language barrier. Minimal English also helps one to think more clearly. With fewer words to choose from, one is forced to focus on the essential things that one wants to say. In a Minimal English text, every word matters, every word counts.