Questions to answer about Figure 2.1

1. What's the purpose of the figure? What information is being presented?

a. To show how the different registers use different proportions of the basic word classes.

b. To show how the 4 basic word classes are used in different amounts in different kinds of communication.

c. To show how each of the word classes is used in a particular kind of communication.

d. The trick in reading these charts is to realize that the numbers on the left represent a scale from zero to whatever number is at the top: 0 to 600,000 (words per million words) in 2.1. Actually, you're reading the chart in two different ways: (a) the total column is read at its top line = 350,000 words (of these 4 types) per million words for conversation. (b) each sub category is read by doing a little arithmetic to figure out its part of the total.

So for conversation: the total is about 350,000 words in the 4 categories all together (per million words). (We can figure that other kinds of words are also important in conversation such as inserts, interjections, conjunctions, prepositions, wh-question words, pronouns, etc.)

Nouns in conversation: a little over 100,000 per million words.
Verbs in conversation: from 125-ish to 275-ish = 150,000 verbs per million words. (More verbs used than nouns).
Adjectives in conversation: from about 275-ish to about 295-ish = about 20,000 per million words. (Very few)
Adverbs in conversation: from about 300 to about 350 = about 50,000 per million words (more than adjectives)


2. What "lexical word classes" are the focus?

adverbs, adjectives, verbs, nouns

They are looking at "parts of speech" or "word classes" rather than at how the words are used in sentences. So, "verbs" rather than "verb phrases."

3. What's the scale down the left represent? What are those numbers?

Wow, these are huge numbers. They are frequency of the type per million words. The frequency is given in thousands. So, the scale runs from zero to 600000.

4. What registers are used?

We know to expect conversation, fiction, news, and academic writing.

5. What does the data tell us about differences among the 4 registers?

I find 2 kinds of things interesting: (1) the proportion of the word types in each individual register and (2) the differences and similaries among the 4 registers

Conversation has about equal numbers of nouns and verbs with much smaller numbers of adjectives and adverbs.

But that's true of all the registers...nouns and verbs are always more frequent than adverbs and adjectives.

Nouns are in different proportions in all 4 registers. They are less important in conversation than in news and acad.

I find the adjectives data surprising: Look at the increased proportion in the academic writing. Now, anytime there are more nouns there's the potential for more adjectives to go with those nouns. But I wouldn't have guessed that academic writing has a higher proportion of adjectives compared to the other 3 types.