Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Flesch-Kincaid and Bible reading levels--Part 2

The fact that the Flesch-Kincaid (F-K) reading test is too simplistic of a testing instrument to give accurate comparisons of Bible versions which use non-standard non-contemporary English can be seen in the failed logic used on the webpage linked from the title to this post. That webpage claims that the KJV is easier to read than the NIV, NASB, TEV, and NKJV. Yet, nearly every one of us can surely, subjectively, sense that the KJV is more difficult to read than any of those four versions. The Flesch-Kincaid test was not designed to calculate reading levels for English Bible versions, in particular the several Bible versions which are not written in any contemporary standard dialect of English. Rather, the Flesch-Kincaid test was designed to test reading grade levels for elementary school curriculum, government documents to be read by non-native speakers of English, etc. The test is included with Microsoft Word for those who compose their documents in English. The typical person who uses the Flesch-Kincaid as part of the spelling and grammar check of Microsoft Word will be a fluent native speaker of some standard dialect of English. The results of the F-K test, then, from checking documents written by such people using Microsoft Word should be fairly well comparable.

Calling the results of F-K tests indications of reading grade level is actually misleading. The F-K test only serves to measure average word and sentence length, and possibly also the amount of passive sentences in a document. Nothing more. We could use the F-K test within Microsoft Word on a document written in another language, say, Spanish. We would then click on Tools, then Spelling and grammar. We would, obviously, immediately encounter words which the spell-checker did not recognize. But this is OK for the F-K test since it doesn't test for whether or not a word is contemporary, obsolete, its register, or even what language it is. We tell the spell-checker to Ignore All instances of all the "misspelled" words in the document. When all the words have been processed, we will get the F-K ease of reading and reading level results. If the Spanish words are of reasonable short length, F-K will tell us that the document has a low reading level. But those results are meaningless, since they are on a language not spoken or read by those for whom we are attempting to compute grade level

And what if we were to process a Cheyenne language document with the Spelling and grammar checker. Cheyenne verbs are typically long, some very long, up to 50 or more letters in length. A single verb can have the meaning of an entire sentence in English. If the Cheyenne document has mostly verbs (and some Cheyennes texts do), then the F-K results would be off the chart. Yet the content theoretically might be no different from that of an English text or a Spanish text.

I hope it is now clear that the Flesch-Kincaid test is appropriately used for certain kinds of texts and not for other texts. F-K results are not accurate for Bible versions which do not have contemporary vocabulary or syntax. We need other testing instruments which can determine if a word is obsolete or not, or if some syntactic form is non-standard for English to be used with Bible versions which are not written in good quality literary current English.

Categories: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home