Event Title

Evidence For "Gating": The Frontloading Of Low-Frequency Academic Vocabulary By High-Profile Columnists And Essayists

Location

SU 003

Start Date

19-4-2019 9:40 AM

Department

Linguistics

Session

Session 3

Description

This research examines the placement of low-frequency vocabulary in columns written in sources such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and other periodicals with a demographic of readers that has a demonstrably higher lever education (easily obtained by media kits). The exploration of this the term I have coined "gating", which signifies a writer’s stacking of lower- frequency academic vocabulary at the beginning of an essay to establish her or his relationship to the audience. Intuition tells us that we adjust our vocabulary for different audiences, and by "gating", the writer or speaker uses low-frequency academic vocabulary early in their discourse to not only establish themselves as a well-educated source, but to in some cases limit those who "pass through", meaning those who will continue reading, or listening, for that matter. Academic vocabulary refers to what most would deem sophisticated vocabulary, which are words used in a more academic environment, as opposed to uncommon slang words or newly coined jargon that doesn’t appear frequently across media. Until recently, the possibility of reasonably quantifying "gating" was precluded by the lack of a web-searchable corpus. Now, however, there is a more quantifiable manner by which we can measure the frequency of use of vocabulary, the Corpus of Contemporary English (COCA). COCA is a database, updated every year or two, with over half a billion words of text, which is taken from across magazines, television programs, academic journals, and literary magazines. By searching for specific words on its website, one is able to see how many times they appear, and in what context. If the vocabulary sets the tone as a more difficult, intellectual reading, the use of such academic words bears the capacity to block those who might be intimidated intellectually, or just might not want to bother plowing through some abstruse text. Undoubtedly, readability has many factors such as sentence length and construction and background knowledge. Regardless, a writer’s choice of vocabulary is a conscious choice, though their intent to “gate” might not be. Little word-frequency research has been published related to the level of vocabulary that an author utilizes, so this research is intended to contribute to discourse analysis by identifying and quantifying the phenomenon of "gating."

Comments

Lewis Gebhardt is the faculty sponsor for this project.

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Apr 19th, 9:40 AM

Evidence For "Gating": The Frontloading Of Low-Frequency Academic Vocabulary By High-Profile Columnists And Essayists

SU 003

This research examines the placement of low-frequency vocabulary in columns written in sources such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and other periodicals with a demographic of readers that has a demonstrably higher lever education (easily obtained by media kits). The exploration of this the term I have coined "gating", which signifies a writer’s stacking of lower- frequency academic vocabulary at the beginning of an essay to establish her or his relationship to the audience. Intuition tells us that we adjust our vocabulary for different audiences, and by "gating", the writer or speaker uses low-frequency academic vocabulary early in their discourse to not only establish themselves as a well-educated source, but to in some cases limit those who "pass through", meaning those who will continue reading, or listening, for that matter. Academic vocabulary refers to what most would deem sophisticated vocabulary, which are words used in a more academic environment, as opposed to uncommon slang words or newly coined jargon that doesn’t appear frequently across media. Until recently, the possibility of reasonably quantifying "gating" was precluded by the lack of a web-searchable corpus. Now, however, there is a more quantifiable manner by which we can measure the frequency of use of vocabulary, the Corpus of Contemporary English (COCA). COCA is a database, updated every year or two, with over half a billion words of text, which is taken from across magazines, television programs, academic journals, and literary magazines. By searching for specific words on its website, one is able to see how many times they appear, and in what context. If the vocabulary sets the tone as a more difficult, intellectual reading, the use of such academic words bears the capacity to block those who might be intimidated intellectually, or just might not want to bother plowing through some abstruse text. Undoubtedly, readability has many factors such as sentence length and construction and background knowledge. Regardless, a writer’s choice of vocabulary is a conscious choice, though their intent to “gate” might not be. Little word-frequency research has been published related to the level of vocabulary that an author utilizes, so this research is intended to contribute to discourse analysis by identifying and quantifying the phenomenon of "gating."