Friday 27 September 2013

Usage & Academic Research: Describing Percentage -- A Corpus Approach

How to describe percentage?
Image from ggpht
Percentage, percentage, percentage, something that we see, we use, we ignore, we love and we hate. Whatever your feelings towards them are, you cannot escape from them, especially in report writing.

I have a few questions in my mind about describing percentage in English, and so I decided to find my answer through a corpus approach using both the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA).

(Since this is not the first time I talk about BNC and COCA, I hope you still remember how to use them. If not, please refer to my earlier entries listed in the Resources section below.)

Highest / Largest / Biggest Percentage?

Do we say "the highest percentage", "the largest percentage" or "the biggest percentage"?

The simple answer is, all three of them have been used, but in terms of frequency,

Adjectives \ Corpus COCA BNC
highest 298 20
largest 164 6
biggest 25 3

"the highest percentage" is more common than "the largest percentage" than "the biggest percentage" both in British and American English.

"Of x percent" / "At x percent"?

Now, it really depends on your sentence structure for this question, but at least we can see from the numbers that they are both used in British and American English, with "of x percent" being more popular.

extract of "Of x percent"
Image from COCA

extract of "At x percent"
Image from COCA

What Other Prepositions Go With "Percent"?

Oh many many, but among them, 'versus' is pretty interesting.

Search Preposition within 4 words to the left of 'percent'
Image from COCA
the general structure of 'versus' with 'percent' is,

x% (of A) versus y% (of B)

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eg. The retention rate of Cornell’s M.R.P. program was 91% of the total enrolled students in August 2006 versus 59% in August 2011.

Other than 'versus', 'compared with' and 'as opposed to' are also possible.


Academic Research: Corpus-based Analysis of Whatsapp Group Chat @ Locky's English Playground

Academic Research: What are the top phrasal verbs to learn?  @ Locky's English Playground

Usage & Academic Research: Differences In Similar Words -- The Corpus Approach Part 1  @ Locky's English Playground

Usage & Academic Research: Differences In Similar Words -- The Corpus Approach Part 2 @ Locky's English Playground

Usage: "No" & "Not"? Is That Even A Problem? @ Locky's English Playground