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Auteur: Shruti SHRUTI SIRCAR

Co-Auteur(s): Sonali Nag The Promise Foundation Bangalore India India

Associations between grammatical development and reading comprehension: evidence from Bengali school children

Abstract/Résumé: The paper investigates the characteristics of good and struggling readers in Bengali based on questions answered on texts read and the complexity of their grammar and vocabulary in oral production. Children’s use of complex language is related to their level of understanding of complex sentence structures in written texts (Nation & Snowling 1994). Children’s utterances become more syntactically and semantically complex as language develop. However, there are individual differences in the pace of this development, and may have associations to attainments in reading comprehension. Written Bengali poses many decoding challenges to novice readers because of akshara-syllable mismatches (Sircar & Nag, in press). However, Bengali has an extended morphological system helping experienced readers to infer meanings of unknown words in texts using knowledge of word parts. In this analysis, we examine the role of oral skills in reading comprehension as represented by children’s language production during a vocabulary definition task. The vocabulary demands in the task bear little relation to the language of the reading texts, and may indicate a general verbal facility. Specific syntactic structures known to be milestones in the development of language - subordination, passivization and nominalization - were examined. Skills known to contribute to reading (word identification, phonological processing and general ability) were also assessed. 71 school children (age range of 8-10 years) were grouped into good and struggling readers according to their z scores on the reading test. The groups were matched for word decoding, phonological skills and general ability. Preliminary analysis showed that good readers had a better control of subordination than struggling readers, and used more finite adverbial clauses than non finite clauses. Few passive constructions and relative clauses were used by either group, suggesting that they may occur late in child speech. A few good readers used rank-shifting nominalizations and formal words/constructions. The paper consolidates these findings to argue for the contributive role of grammatical knowledge in enabling children to understand syntactic connections within texts, which in turn arguably leads to comprehension of more complex texts. References Nation, K., & Snowling, M. J. 2004. Beyond phonological skills: broader language skills contribute to the development of reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 27, 342-356. Sircar, S. & Nag, S. (in press). Akshara-syllable mappings in Bengali: a language-specific skill for reading, In H. Winskel & P. Padakanayya (eds.), South and South-East Asian Psycholinguistics. Cambridge University Press.