this is pretty interesting. i guess its valid, it came off an .edu
Mark's argument concerned the lack of evidence that popular culture is in decline, and, in particular, the lack of evidence that school texts are being dumbed down. He included a pretty graph showing how words are distributed in different text genres. After a little while digesting the graph, understanding the log scale etc. (ahh, so that's what a language log is...), I decided there was something about it that confused me, although unconnected with Mark's main point. It seems that 1st grade readers have relatively fewer very high frequency words than do newspapers and scientific abstracts. Funny, without thinking about it I would have guessed just the opposite.
Here is the graph (from Marty White at Cornell, and found in this nice document describing White's research):
As we move along the x-axis, we consider successively less frequent words. For a given word rank, the height of the graph tells us what proportions of words in the text have that frequency or greater. Thus we can see that the 1000 most common words in 1st grade readers account for over 90% of the text, while the top 1000 account for less than 70% in newspapers, and less than 50% in scientific abstracts (from Nature, not Science as you might interpret the legend to mean). This is supposed to provide an objective justification for the intuition that 1st grade readers are less complex than newspapers which are less complex than scientific abstracts.http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/2004_04.html
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