Wednesday, March 30, 2011

100 word vocabulary

Fabio Capello's claim that he only needs 100 words of English to communicate with his England footballers has sparked lots of silly (but fun) discussions about what those words might be. The BBC covered it here, The Guardian reckoned that beaten excuse quarter final, Germany, jagerbomb, lager and WAGs might be in there, while today's G2 extends the 100 words to other occupations including taxi drivers (Where left right lights immigration stop roadworks traffic not being funny but come over here free council houses bloody liberty politicians all same)  and teachers (You sit quiet please everyone now enough gum tie shirt homework yes today excuses no book open page talking stop discipline noise courtesy while others trying learn). But why stop there? George Osborne would only need 3 words (cut, gloat and slime) so that would be easy, but what about other jobs and professions?

Thinking of those 100 words that are used most frequently, is there a way in which patterns in their grammar could be discerned? Katherine Nelson's study of children's first words back in 1973 showed that one year-olds tended to favour nouns heavily among their first 50 words, but what would the pattern be for you?

Wikipedia uses data from Oxford Dictionaries to assemble the 100 most frequently used words in English, but this data is drawn from written texts primarily, making it very different from what a person would say in a normal day of speaking.

Perhaps an interesting language investigation at A2 would be to record a few minutes of conversation every hour and log the words used, their frequency and word class, to establish the patterns in your own speech and that of others.

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, i...