The context that a word is immersed in is crucial for the determination of its meaning and grammatical role.

Thus, to fully grasp the meaning of a word and to be able to use it proficiently, speakers need to internalise the collocations and language formulas involving that word.

In fact, according to Ferdinand de Saussure, the grandfather of linguistics, our brains are lazy; when two or more words appear together enough times, we stop analysing them independently. They become a single unit in our head, a ‘big word’ with a single meaning. Indeed, experimental evidence confirms that, in this way, the processing and interpretation of words becomes faster (Conklin & Schmitt, 2012).

For these reasons, as children’s vocabularies grow, explicit instruction of collocations is crucial for them to make the most of every new word they learn. Importantly, this is even more crucial in the case of children with dyslexia in that these children have been found to compensate for their limitations in reading by relying even more on the context in which words appear than children without dyslexia (Nation & Snowling, 1998).

In other words, in order to save time and energy from trying to decode words one by one, children with dyslexia often identify a word based on its context. Thus, helping these children familiarize themselves with word combinations that are used in statistically predictable patterns is absolutely essential.

At Mrs Wordsmith, we have our own group of machine learning experts that search the most relevant corpora and integrate them to make a gigantic database encompassing a wide variety of sources, ranging from Wikipedia to transcribed spoken data. Our writers then search this database to type a word and see which other words are most commonly used with it.

The database also tells us how many times the two words were used together, and where those instances were found, providing us with enough information to make sure we successfully illustrate the collocations that will help children become better and faster readers.

References:

Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2012). The Processing of Formulaic Language. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 32, 45-61.

Nation, K., Snowling, M.J. (1998). Individual Differences in Contextual Facilitation: Evidence From Dyslexia and Poor Reading Comprehension. Child Development, 69(4), 996-1011.

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