Syntactic skills in sentence reading among Chinese elementary school children

Reading and Writing (Impact Factor: 1.44). 03/2011; 25(3):679-699. DOI: 10.1007/s11145-010-9293-4


The present study examined the role of syntactic skills for reading comprehension in Chinese. Two hundred and seventy-two
Chinese children were tested on their phonological processing, orthographic, morphological, syntactic, and literacy skills
at Grades 1 and 2. Hierarchical multiple regression results showed that syntactic skills, in terms of word order, connective
usage, and knowledge of morphosyntactic structure (measured by an oral cloze task) in Grade 1, significantly predicted sentence
reading comprehension in Grade 2 after controlling for the children’s age, IQ, and word level reading-related cognitive skills
in Grade 1, and word reading in Grade 2. As in alphabetic languages, syntactic skills are essential for reading comprehension
in Chinese. The unique roles of individual syntactic skills for understanding sentences in Chinese are discussed.

KeywordsReading comprehension–Chinese–Syntactic skills

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    • "A few more recent studies have also substantiated the significance of syntactic skills in reading comprehension in Chinese. At the sentence level, Chik et al. (2012a) demonstrated that syntactic skills (including word order, connectives and morphosyntactic knowledge) at grade 1 were longitudinally related to sentence comprehension at grade 2, after taking the children's age, nonverbal intelligence, phonological, orthographic, and morphological processing into consideration. Yeung et al. (2011) also found that syntactic skill assessed with an oral cloze task uniquely predicted sentence and passage comprehension among Chinese first graders above and beyond the effects of word reading ability and other reading-related skills. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present paper reported two studies which compared the roles of word order and morphosyntactic skills in reading comprehension among Chinese elementary school children. In Study 1, we found that over and above the effects of age, nonverbal intelligence and word reading, word order skill was a stable predictor of reading performance throughout grades 1 to 6, whereas morphosyntactic skill was associated with reading comprehension at grades 3 and 4. Study 2 was a three-year longitudinal study which showed that morphosyntactic but not word order skill at grade 2 longitudinally predicted sentence comprehension at grade 3 beyond the control variables and the auto-regressor; word order rather than morphosyntactic skill at grade 2 contributed significant variances to passage comprehension at grades 3 and 4. The findings suggested a differential dependence of reading on word order and morphosyntactic skills at different ages and in reading comprehension at different levels.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2016 · Learning and Individual Differences
    • "). This is a widely used standardized test in Chinese literacy research to measure students' performance in Chinese word reading (e.g., Cheung et al., 2010 ; Chik et al., 2012 ; T. Li, McBride- Chang, Wong, & Shu, 2012 ; Yeung et al., 2011 , 2013 ) with local norms. Its norming procedure was based on a representative sample of typically developing students in Hong Kong. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study examined the roles of different dimensions of syntactic skills in predicting reading comprehension within and across two languages with contrasting structural properties: Chinese and English. A total of 413 young Cantonese-English bilingual students in Hong Kong (202 first graders and 211 third graders) were tested on word order skill, morphosyntactic skill, and reading comprehension in both L1 and L2. Hierarchical regressions showed that after partialing out the effects of age, nonverbal intelligence, working memory, oral vocabulary, and word reading, word order skill was more predictive of reading comprehension in both L1 and L2 in grade 1 than morphosyntactic skill. In grade 3, morphosyntactic skill emerged to be an equally and even a more important skill than word order skill in L1 and L2 reading, respectively. In both age cohorts, L1 syntactic skills cross- linguistically predicted L2 reading comprehension even when age, oral language, and general cognitive skills were statistically controlled. Statistical equation modeling mediation analyses revealed that this syntactic transfer from L1 to L2 was mediated by L2 syntactic skills but not L1 reading comprehension. When we further investigated the transfer of individual syntactic skills, word order skill appeared to be more transferable than morphosyntactic skill early in grade 1, in support of the transfer facilitation model. The findings suggest that young bilingual students may draw on the correspondence between L1 and L2 syntax to support their L2 learning, hence informing educators of issues and strategies that they should take note of in designing an effective L2 learning program.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Reading Research Quarterly
    • "Without an understanding of the significance of specific linguistic devices such as pairs of connectives, comprehension of Chinese text becomes very difficult. Subsequent study in Chinese reading acquisition and impairment reported that dyslexic children scored significantly lower on the discourse skills measures than the typically developing readers (e.g., Chik et al., 2012a, b). Discourse skills were also particularly important in explaining the difference in reading ability of typically developing children and dyslexic children (e.g., Chik et al., 2012b). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study aims to investigate the relation of syntactic and discourse skills to morphological skills, rapid naming, and working memory in Chinese adolescent readers with dyslexia and to examine their cognitive-linguistic profiles. Fifty-two dyslexic readers (mean age, 13;42) from grade 7 to 9 in Hong Kong high schools were compared with 52 typically developing readers of the same chronological age (mean age, 13;30) in the measures of word reading, 1-min word reading, reading comprehension, morpheme discrimination, morpheme production, morphosyntactic knowledge, sentence order knowledge, digit rapid naming, letter rapid naming, backward digit span, and non-word repetition. Results showed that dyslexic readers performed significantly worse than their peers on all the cognitive-linguistic tasks. Analyses of individual performance also revealed that over half of the dyslexic readers exhibited deficits in syntactic and discourse skills. Moreover, syntactic skills, morphological skills, and rapid naming best distinguished dyslexic from non-dyslexic readers. Findings underscore the significance of syntactic and discourse skills for understanding reading impairment in Chinese adolescent readers.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Annals of Dyslexia
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