Saturday, 18 December 2010

Language and Down syndrome - a view via Google books

Google has recently introduced the ability to search the text of the books it has content for, consequently we can get an interesting insight into the use of language over the last two centuries and also an indication of how fashion has changed (click on the image to go to the full chart).

I decided to look at mentions of language for Down syndrome,for example:

This shows the relative decline of 'mongolism' and 'retard' and the increase in more use of the word 'idiot' as a non technical term with general social acceptability. Down syndrome unsurprisingly has grown in use since the 1970s as mongolism fell away.

What would appear more surprising however is the greater use of the term Down syndrome than any previous use.

I suspect this increase in mentions tracks screening in pregnancy, unfortunately most terms used in relation to this are too general to track accurately.

One additional comparison is interesting - if we add in autism in comparison, which far exceeds any recent mentions of Down syndrome: