Syntactic Cues Used In Silent Reading Comprehension By Good, Average And Poor College Readers

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Reading and Learning Disabilities


The first purpose of this study was to determine if readers of varying reading achievement levels exhibit different degrees of competence in their general grammatical knowledge. The second purpose was to determine if readers of varying reading achievement levels exhibit different levels of competence in the use of syntactic cues of word order in sentences with right- or left-embedding and active or passive voice.The problems investigated in this research focus on the following questions: Sentence Structure: Is the recognition of correct sentence structure related to reading comprehension? Word Order: Is an ability to use syntactic cues of word order related to comprehension: Do poor, average and good readers have different levels of achievement in their ability to correctly use word order? For specific syntactic constructions: Do poor, average and good readers have more difficulty with sentences written in active or passive voice and with right- or left-embeddings?The subjects were 72 college students drawn from freshman English and developmental reading classes at the University of Miami. Reading levels and group assignment (poor, average and good) were determined by performance on the Cooperative English Test of Reading Comprehension.The Sentence Structure subtest of the Descriptive Tests of Language Skills (E.T.S.) and the researcher-designed Word Order Arrangement Task were administered over two consecutive class periods.Six hypotheses were tested at the .05 significance level. The Pearson product-moment correlation was used to test the relationships for all readers between reading comprehension and knowledge of sentence structure and reading comprehension and correct word order usage. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to compare level of reading comprehension with knowledge of sentence structure and with word order arrangement for each group of readers. Comparisons of performance using t-tests for each group were also made between sentences with active and passive voice and right- and left-embeddings.Findings. Sentence Structure: Knowledge of sentence structure is not significantly related to reading comprehension. There were no statistically significant differences between poor, average and good readers in knowledge of sentence structure.Word Order: Ability to use syntactic cues of word order is not significantly related to reading comprehension for the total group of readers. There were no statistical differences between good and average readers, however good readers did score significantly higher than poor readers on the total word order arrangement task.On the subscores of word order arrangement good readers did perform significantly better than poor readers on subtests measuring right-embedded, active and passive voice sentences. Passive sentences were more difficult than active sentences for poor readers only. Left-embedded sentences were easier than right-embedded sentences for average and poor readers.Conclusions. (1) Sentence structure alone is not a key determinant of college students' reading comprehension. (2) Good readers are making better use of syntactic cues to aid them in comprehension than poor readers. (3) Most average and good readers have reached a sufficient level of syntactic proficiency so that they no longer use syntax as a major determinant of comprehension. (4) Good and average readers perform in a similar manner on tests of syntactic skills.


Education, Reading

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