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ERIC Number: ED302836
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1988-Nov
Pages: 17
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: N/A
The Vocabulary of Cultural Literacy in a Newspaper of Substance.
Willinsky, John
To examine the role that items on the list of "What Literate Americans Know" (developed by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.) plays in the nation's literacy, a study conducted an electronic search of "The New York Times" to establish the frequency of occurrence for a sample from the list. A random sample of 424 terms (9% of the total list) was selected. Each term or expression which was searched produced a figure representing the frequency of occurrence in the "Times" over a period of 101 months (June 1, 1980 to October 28, 1988), representing a corpus of 660.5 million words. Four frequency periods--yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily--were devised based on how often, on average, a term might be expected to turn up in the newspaper. The terms were also divided into eight categories: geography; history; idioms/proverbs; literature/arts; math/sciences; politics/economics; psychology/anthropology; and religion. Results indicated that any given day's issue of the "Times" contained approximately 2,700 occurrences of terms from the list, with a few of them (such as "New York") making up a good proportion of this number. Geography, the arts, and politics/economics dominated the frequency levels, while history and proverbs/idiomatic expressions were not high frequency categories. Results suggest that Hirsch has identified a corpus of cultural terms which play a part in the daily commerce of the published language. However, to be culturally literate in this set of terms will neither be sufficient nor necessary for a high level of comprehension in reading the "New York Times." (Three tables of data are included.) (MM)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Ottawa (Ontario).
Authoring Institution: N/A