Words in Context
what amazing data. A glimpse into reality. A solid basis for some decision
making for the curriculum and for lessons and for materials.
What registers are being compared?
What grammar is being compared? The figures are about the frequency of
Frequency of function
words in the 2 types of discourse: All of the major function word categories
that they discuss in the chapter.
What's the scale?
are big numbers. The frequency is the number of occurrences per million
words presented in 1000s. So the top of the scale is 180,000 occurrences
per million words.
Compare the use of pronouns.
There are many many
more pronouns in the conversation than in academic prose. 40,000 in
the prose and 160,000 in the conversation....per million words.
Compare the use of primary auxiliary verbs. (What kind of verb is that?)
= be, have, do when used as auxiliary (and not as lexical verbs).
More of them in conversations but not the dramatic difference seen with
pronouns: 90,000-ish in conversation and 65,000-ish in prose.
Compare the use of prepositions. That's pretty interesting. Why would
that be true?
More in prose than
in conversation: 150,000 vs. 55,000 per million words. Lots of prepositional
phrases are attached to nouns: the children in the classroom, the book
on the shelf, my friends from college, etc. Academic prose is noun heavy.
So, nouns attract prepositional phrases.
Compare the use of determiners. Ummmm.
More in prose: 100,000
vs. 50,000 per million words. As in #6 on prepositions, nouns involve
determiners. Where there are lots of nouns, there will be lots of determiners.
the use of coordinators.
in prose; 30,000 in conversation. So, a few more in writing than talking.
Compare the use of modals.
20,000 in conversation
vs. 18,000-ish in prose. We'd need to know which modals are being used
for which meanings before these numbers help us understand modal use
the use of subordinators.
Just about the same.
I wonder which words are being used. Conversation tends to have a more
restricted vocabulary than writing. We need to know more. The data raises
questions that should lead to more study.
the use of adverbial particles.
These are words
like down in "fall down." 15,000 in conversation and
a sliver in writing. These are NOT a major characteristic of conversation
but when they are used they are used in conversation.
Compare the use of pronouns to the use of adverbial particles.
Pronouns are a hugely
important feature of conversation. Adverbial particles are not. When
we teach students how to have an English conversation, we'll need to
focus more on pronouns than on particles!
Compare the use of primary and modal auxiliaries.
to see how much more the primary auxiliaries are used than modals in
both types of communication. It would be helpful to know (1) which of
the primary auxiliaries is used most, (2) if there are differences in
the use of the 3 words in conversation and writing, and (3) if the heavy
use is from questions or negatives. Conversation has a lot of questions
in it; prose doesn't usually.
Compare the use of coordinators and subordinators.
In both discourse
types, coordination is used more than subordination. Probably that's
because words like and are used to coordinate not just sentences
but also words and phrases. So, there are more ways to use and
than ways to use although.
to Figures 2.2 and 2.3
questions to me. Thanks!