simple:E Prime

Dr. David Bourland coined the term E-Prime, short for English Prime, to refer to the English language modified by prohibiting the use of the verb "to be." E-Prime arose from Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics and his observation that English speakers most often use "to be" to express dogmatic beliefs or assumptions or to avoid expressing opinions and feelings as such.

The verb can express several distinct meanings:

  • identity, of the form "noun be noun" [The cat is a longhair]
  • predication, of the form "noun be adjective" [The cat is furry]
  • auxiliary, of the form "noun be verb" [The cat is sleeping]
  • existence, of the form "noun be" [There is a cat]
  • location, of the form "noun be place" [The cat is on the mat]

Bourland sees specifically the "identity" and "predication" forms as pernicious, but advocates eliminating all forms for the sake of simplicity. In the case of the "existence" form (and less idiomatically, the "location" form), one can simply substitute the verb "exists".

Its advocates assert that the use of E-Prime leads to a less dogmatic style of writing that reduces the possibility for misunderstanding and conflict. One might speculate on the usefulness of E-Prime in constructing encyclopaediae concerned with maintaining a neutral point of view.

However, one cannot use E-Prime with C. K. Ogden's Basic English because Basic has a closed set of verbs that does not include the verbs such as "become", "remain", and "equal" that E-Prime uses to express states of "being".

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