Universidade de Vigo
The University of Liverpool

Welcome to the APU Language Project website

Welcome to the website of the project ‘The art of writing English’: A corpus of schoolchildren’s writings.

An ongoing debate within the field of Educational Linguistics in the UK is how to maintain and/or improve standards in writing performance in primary and secondary schoolchildren. Previous scholars have attempted to address the issue, generally from a synchronic perspective and with limited data based on few and/or small corpora. However, the results so far have not been homogeneous, and scholars are aware of the need for new methodologies.

The aim of the proposed project is to contribute to the field in two ways:

  1. by developing a large-scale diachronic corpus of schoolchildren’s writings—the APU Writing and Reading Corpus 1979-1988. The data for the corpus comes from the Assessment of Performance Unit Language Surveys Archive (1979-1988), currently stored, in hard copy, at the University of Liverpool. The corpus will consist of writings by 11-years-old children ("school scripts") and writings for children of this same age group and school level ("basal readers"). It will be morphologically and semantically tagged, and will be available online, licence-free, to the teaching and research community.
  2. by carrying out two case studies on children’s writing performance based on the above-mentioned APU corpus compilation (on the complexity of Noun Phrases, case-study 1) and the legacy of eighteenth-century ‘standards’ with regard to the spelling and morpho-syntax of English (case-study 2)

We hope that both the materials and findings of this project will be of interest to corpus linguists, educationalists and psycholinguists interested in writing development as well as to text-linguists and sociolinguists interested in language variation and change.

This project would not have been possible without the generous support of a number of funding and educational bodies. We would like to gratefully acknowledge the economic support of the Consellería de Cultura, Educación e Ordenación Universitaria, Xunta de Galicia, (Proxectos Emerxentes, Grant EM2014/028). Our gratitude also extends to The National Foundation for Educational Research and, in particular, its former Deputy Director, Dr. Chris Whetton, for agreeing to (a) the transferral of the Surveys to the University of Liverpool and (b) the use of its materials for teaching and research purposes. We are also indebted to Dr. Greg Brooks (former APU Language Team co-ordinator) for his help in finding relevant background information about the APU language surveys, as well as for enthusiasm and encouragement in the shaping-up the project. We would like to thank Prof. Bas Aarts, Prof. Dick Hudson, Dr. Anne Qualter and Prof. David Denison for their suggestions and advice at different stages of the project.

We invite you to take the time to navigate along the pages to find further information on the members of the project, its background and materials. The project/corpus is also listed in CoRD.

If you have any queries, questions or suggestions, please contact us at apucorp@liverpool.ac.uk