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OUP analyses children's writing
12th Jun 12
An in-depth report into children's language by OUP shows that children love making up new words, are very aware of the Olympics, can spell pterodactyl by the age of seven but not 'can't', and like the idea of unusual pets such as dragons and unicorns.
The study was undertaken in collaboration with the Chris Evans Show on Radio 2 as part of its 500 Words Competition.
OUP's lexicographers analysed the 74,000 entries from children across the UK aged seven to 13 years and found some amazing results.
While the use of the apostrophe continues to cause children problems, a love of reading was clearly demonstrated in the analysis, said OUP, evidenced by the words they are 'borrowing' from stories such as JK Rowling's basilisk and hippogriff, J.R.R. Tolkien's orcs, the bandersnatch which pops up in a number of Lewis Carroll's works, and Roald Dahl's great glass elevator appear in several stories.
Technology is also enriching children's lives, and they are using terms google and app in their stories. Googling is a way to follow clues in a mystery and apps can be downloaded for use as a prop, avatar, or weapon.
Hi-tech kit is also making young people wonderfully inventive and many stories focused on genetic experiments, espionage, and futuristic gadgets.
The influence of fantasy fiction is also evident in the number of magical beasts and monsters in their stories, as well as bizarre creatures composed of different elements such as the sharkbaragator (part shark, part bear, and part alligator) and the drogen (half dog, half dragon).
Susan Rennie, a lexicographers who works on OUP's children's dictionaries, said, "We need to build children's dictionaries from the ground up and for that we need really good raw materials.
"Until now we've had a fantastic range of literature written for children but that's only part of the equation.
"We haven't had a comparable amount of data written by children to look at so for children's lexicographers this is the equivalent of the Voyager Space Mission. You can have as many artists' impressions as you like of what you think Jupiter and Saturn look like but that's nothing compared to having the real data from the space camera and this, for us, is that camera."
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