Today’s Most Common Sight Words
The Oxford Corpus is a tool used by the Oxford Dictionaries to track the evolution of the English language. It is a collection of texts detailing written or spoken language that is presented in an electronic format.
The corpus represents all types of English; it comprises newspapers, magazines, novels, professional journals, chat rooms, blogs and emails. The corpus presents an accurate picture of how a word is used today in the English language. The corpus is not limited to United States and United Kingdom but contains language from all parts of the world (e.g. Australia, Canada, and South Africa), making it the largest and most representative English corpus, containing over two billion words.
An amazing 25% of the Corpus is made of just ten basic words, called lemmas. These words are, in order: the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have & I. A staggering 50% of the Corpus accounts for the top one hundred words in the English language. Like most languages, the English language contains a small number of very common words. Many of these words are ‘function” words because they join other words rather than determine the meaning of the sentence.
Dr. Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. referred to these words as tool or service words. He further stated they are included in all writing regardless of subject matter. In the late 1940s, Dolch compiled a list of 220 basic sight words. How does Dolch’s list compare to the 21st century’s 100 most common words? Amazingly, his list stands the test of time; 5 service words were excluded out of 94. The 100 most common words included six nouns. Dolch intentionally excluded nouns from his list.
Overall, the comparison revealed the following:
- 89 service words included on both lists
- 4 nouns are included on the 100 most common words were also included on the Dolch list of 95 nouns
- 2 nouns are included on the MCW list and not Dolch’s noun list (people, year)
- 5 service words are included on the 100 MCW and not on Dolch’s list (also, even, most, other, than)
More recently, Dr Edward Fry, Ph.D. and Jacqueline E Kress, Ed.D. compiled a list of the most common words in the English language. The first twenty-five words make up approximately one third of printed material. All of the ten words noted above are included on this list. In addition, all of the corpus’ 100 most common words are included in the Fry’s 300 most common words, which comprise 65% percent of all written material.
This is fabulous news because the board game, Erudition™ derived its sight words cards using these two lists as well as other resources!