Imitated Prosodic Fluency Predicts Reading Comprehension Ability in Good and Poor High School Readers.
ABSTRACT: Researchers have established a relationship between beginning readers' silent comprehension ability and their prosodic fluency, such that readers who read aloud with appropriate prosody tend to have higher scores on silent reading comprehension assessments. The current study was designed to investigate this relationship in two groups of high school readers: Specifically Poor Comprehenders (SPCs), who have adequate word level and phonological skills but poor reading comprehension ability, and a group of age- and decoding skill-matched controls. We compared the prosodic fluency of the two groups by determining how effectively they produced prosodic cues to syntactic and semantic structure in imitations of a model speaker's production of syntactically and semantically varied sentences. Analyses of pitch and duration patterns revealed that speakers in both groups produced the expected prosodic patterns; however, controls provided stronger durational cues to syntactic structure. These results demonstrate that the relationship between prosodic fluency and reading comprehension continues past the stage of early reading instruction. Moreover, they suggest that prosodically fluent speakers may also generate more fluent implicit prosodic representations during silent reading, leading to more effective comprehension.
Project description:This paper focuses on reading fluency by bilingual primary school students, and the relation of text fluency to their reading comprehension. Group differences were examined in a cross-sectional design across the age range when fluency is posed to shift from word-level to text-level. One hundred five bilingual children from primary grades 3, 4, and 5 were assessed for English word reading and decoding fluency, phonological awareness, rapid symbol naming, and oral language proficiency with standardized measures. These skills were correlated with their silent reading fluency on a self-paced story reading task. Text fluency was quantified using non-linear analytic methods: recurrence quantification and fractal analyses. Findings indicate that more fluent text reading appeared by grade 4, similar to monolingual findings, and that different aspects of fluency characterized passage reading performance at different grade levels. Text fluency and oral language proficiency emerged as significant predictors of reading comprehension.
Project description:This project focuses on structural and prosodic effects during reading, examining their influence on agreement processing and comprehension in native English (L1) and Spanish-English bilingual (L2) speakers. We consolidate research from several distinct areas of inquiry-cognitive processing, reading fluency, and L1/L2 processing-in order to support the integration of prosody with a cue-based retrieval mechanism for subject-verb agreement. To explore this proposal, the experimental design manipulated text presentation to influence implicit prosody, using sentences designed to induce subject-verb agreement attraction errors. Materials included simple and complex relative clauses with head nouns and verbs that were either matched or mismatched for number. Participants read items in one of three presentation formats (whole sentence, word-by-word, or phrase-by-phrase), rated each item for grammaticality, and responded to a comprehension probe. Results indicated that while overall, message comprehension was prioritized over subject-verb agreement computation, presentation format differentially affected both measures in the L1 and L2 groups. For the L1 participants, facilitating the projection of phrasal prosody onto text (phrase-by-phrase presentation) enhanced performance in agreement processing, while disrupting prosodic projection via word-by-word presentation decreased comprehension accuracy. For the L2 participants, however, phrase-by-phrase presentation was not significantly beneficial for agreement processing, and additionally resulted in lower comprehension accuracy. These differences point to a significant role of prosodic phrasing during agreement processing in both L1 and L2 speakers, additionally suggesting that it may contribute to a cue-based retrieval agreement model, either acting as a cue directly, or otherwise scaffolding the retrieval process. The discussion and results presented provide support both for a cue-based retrieval mechanism in agreement, and the function of prosody within such a mechanism, adding further insight into the interaction of retrieval processes, cognitive task load, and the role of implicit prosody.
Project description:It has been suggested that there is a close relationship between visual attention span (VAS) and fluent reading. This relation may be modulated by participants' age, and exhibits various patterns in different reading modes (i.e., oral vs. silent reading) and different reading levels (e.g., sentence vs. character/word levels). Moreover, the modulation effects from the above factors might be more remarkable in the framework of languages with a deep orthography. Therefore, the present study investigated the developmental pattern of the relationship between VAS skills and reading fluency in Chinese, a language with particularly deep orthography, by recruiting 292 participants from primary schools, middle schools, and universities. Two tests were utilized to assess fluent reading skills at the single-character and sentence levels with oral and silent reading modes. A visual 1-back task was adopted to reflect VAS capacity with non-verbal stimuli and no verbal response. Results showed that the VAS capacity of low-grade primary school students could significantly account for the variance in single-character reading fluency in the oral mode and that it was a significant predictor of sentence reading fluency in the oral mode among high-grade primary school students. VAS abilities of middle school students allowed a unique and stable prediction of their silent sentence reading. With increasing reading ability, VAS skills of adults showed significant and similar predictive power for estimating the variations in fluent sentence reading in both silent and oral modes. These results revealed developmental changes in the contribution of VAS to fluent reading in Chinese, and provided evidence unveiling whether the underlying mechanisms of oral and silent reading were shared or different.
Project description:The visual word form area (VWFA) in the left ventral occipito-temporal (vOT) cortex is key to fluent reading in children and adults. Diminished VWFA activation during print processing tasks is a common finding in subjects with severe reading problems. Here, we report fMRI data from a multicentre study with 140 children in primary school (7.9-12.2 years; 55 children with dyslexia, 73 typical readers, 12 intermediate readers). All performed a semantic task on visually presented words and a matched control task on symbol strings. With this large group of children, including the entire spectrum from severely impaired to highly fluent readers, we aimed to clarify the association of reading fluency and left vOT activation during visual word processing. The results of this study confirm reduced word-sensitive activation within the left vOT in children with dyslexia. Interestingly, the association of reading skills and left vOT activation was especially strong and spatially extended in children with dyslexia. Thus, deficits in basic visual word form processing increase with the severity of reading disability but seem only weakly associated with fluency within the typical reading range suggesting a linear dependence of reading scores with VFWA activation only in the poorest readers.
Project description:There is extensive evidence that the segmental (i.e., phonemic) layer of phonology is routinely activated during reading, but little is known about whether phonological activation extends beyond phonemes to subsegmental layers (which include articulatory information, such as voicing) and suprasegmental layers (which include prosodic information, such as lexical stress). In three proofreading experiments, we show that spelling errors are detected more reliably in syllables that are stressed than in syllables that are unstressed if comprehension is a goal of the reader, indicating that suprasegmental phonology is both active during silent reading and can influence orthographic processes. In Experiment 1, participants received instructions to read for both errors and comprehension, and we found that the effect of lexical stress interacted with linguistic predictability, such that detection of errors in more predictable words was aided by stress but detection of errors in less predictable words was not. This finding suggests that lexical stress patterns can be accessed prelexically if an upcoming word is sufficiently predictable from context. Participants with stronger vocabularies showed decreased effects of stress on task performance, which is consistent with previous findings that more skilled readers are less swayed by phonological information in decisions about orthographic form. In two subsequent experiments, participants were instructed to read only for errors (Experiment 2) or only for comprehension (Experiment 3); the effect of stress disappeared when participants read for errors and reappeared when participants read for comprehension, reconfirming our hypothesis that predictability is a driver of lexical stress effects. In all experiments, errors were detected more reliably in words that were difficult to predict from context than in words that were highly predictable. Taken together, this series of experiments contributes two important findings to the field of reading and cognition: (1) The prosodic property of lexical stress can influence orthographic processing, and (2) Predictability inhibits the detection of errors in written language processing.
Project description:Unimpaired readers process words incredibly fast and hence it was assumed that top-down processing, such as predicting upcoming words, would be too slow to play an appreciable role in reading. This runs counter the major postulate of the predictive coding framework that our brain continually predicts probable upcoming sensory events. This means, it may generate predictions about the probable upcoming word during reading (dubbed forward inferences). Trying to asses these contradictory assumptions, we evaluated the effect of the predictability of words in sentences on eye movement control during silent reading. Participants were a group of fluent (i.e., fast) and a group of speed-impaired (i.e., slow) readers. The findings indicate that fast readers generate forward inferences, whereas speed-impaired readers do so to a reduced extent - indicating a significant role of predictive coding for fluent reading.
Project description:It has long been debated whether non-native speakers can process sentences in the same way as native speakers do or they suffer from certain qualitative deficit in their ability of language comprehension. The current study examined the influence of prosodic and visual information in processing sentences with a temporarily ambiguous prepositional phrase ("Put the cake on the plate in the basket") with native English speakers and Japanese learners of English. Specifically, we investigated (1) whether native speakers assign different pragmatic functions to the same prosodic cues used in different contexts and (2) whether L2 learners can reach the correct analysis by integrating prosodic cues with syntax with reference to the visually presented contextual information. The results from native speakers showed that contrastive accents helped to resolve the referential ambiguity when a contrastive pair was present in visual scenes. However, without a contrastive pair in the visual scene, native speakers were slower to reach the correct analysis with the contrastive accent, which supports the view that the pragmatic function of intonation categories are highly context dependent. The results from L2 learners showed that visually presented context alone helped L2 learners to reach the correct analysis. However, L2 learners were unable to assign contrastive meaning to the prosodic cues when there were two potential referents in the visual scene. The results suggest that L2 learners are not capable of integrating multiple sources of information in an interactive manner during real-time language comprehension.
Project description:Reading comprehension is a complex task that depends on multiple cognitive and linguistic processes. According to the updated Simple View of Reading framework, in adults, individual variation in reading comprehension can be largely explained by combined variance in three component abilities: (1) decoding accuracy, (2) fluency, and (3) language comprehension. Here we asked whether the neural correlates of the three components are different in adults with dyslexia as compared to typically-reading adults and whether the relative contribution of these correlates to reading comprehension is similar in the two groups. We employed a novel naturalistic fMRI reading task to identify the neural correlates of individual differences in the three components using whole-brain and literature-driven regions-of-interest approaches. Across all participants, as predicted by the Simple View framework, we found distinct patterns of associations with linguistic and domain-general regions for the three components, and that the left-hemispheric neural correlates of language comprehension in the angular and posterior temporal gyri made the largest contributions to explaining out-of-scanner reading comprehension performance. These patterns differed between the two groups. In typical adult readers, better fluency was associated with greater activation of left occipitotemporal regions, better comprehension with lesser activation in prefrontal and posterior parietal regions, and there were no significant associations with decoding. In adults with dyslexia, better fluency was associated with greater activation of bilateral inferior parietal regions, better comprehension was associated with greater activation in some prefrontal clusters and lower in others, and better decoding skills were associated with lesser activation of bilateral prefrontal and posterior parietal regions. Extending the behavioral findings of skill-level differences in the relative contribution of the three components to reading comprehension, the relative contributions of the neural correlates to reading comprehension differed based on dyslexia status. These findings reveal some of the neural correlates of individual differences in the three components and the underlying mechanisms of reading comprehension deficits in adults with dyslexia.
Project description:Executive function (EF) is related to reading. However, there is a lack of clarity around (a) the relative contribution of different components of EF to different reading components (word reading, fluency, comprehension), and (b) how EF operates in the context of known strong language predictors (e.g., components of the Simple View of Reading or SVR), and other skills theoretically related to reading (e.g., vocabulary, processing speed) and/or to EF (e.g., short-term memory, motor function). In a large sample of 3rd to 5th graders oversampled for struggling readers, this paper evaluates the impact of EF derived from a bifactor model (Cirino, Ahmed, Miciak, Taylor, Gerst, & Barnes, 2018) in the context of well-known covariates and demographics. Beyond common EF, five specific factors (two related to working memory, and factors of fluency, self-regulated learning, and behavioral inattention/metacognition) were addressed. EF consistently showed a unique contribution to already-strong predictive models for all reading outcomes; for reading comprehension, EF interacted with SVR indices (word reading and listening comprehension). The findings extend and refine our understanding of the contribution of EF to reading skill.
Project description:During natural speech perception, listeners rely on a wide range of cues to support comprehension, from semantic context to prosodic information. There is a general consensus that prosody plays a role in syntactic parsing, but most studies focusing on ambiguous relative clauses (RC) show that prosodic cues, alone, are insufficient to reverse the preferred interpretation of sentence. These findings suggest that universally preferred structures (e.g., Late Closure principle) matter far more than prosodic cues in such cases. This study explores an alternative hypothesis: that the weak effect of prosody might be due to the influence of various syntactic, lexical-semantic, and acoustic confounding factors, and investigate the consequences of prosodic breaks while controlling these variables. We used Spanish RC sentences in three experimental conditions where the presence and position (following the first or second noun phrase) of prosodic breaks was manipulated. The results showed that the placement of a prosodic break determined sentence interpretation by changing the preferred attachment of the RC. Listeners' natural preference for low attachment (in the absence of break) was reinforced when a prosodic break was placed after the first noun. In contrast, a prosodic break placed after the second noun reversed the preferred interpretation of the sentence, toward high attachment. We argue that, in addition to other factors, listeners indeed use prosodic breaks as robust cues to syntactic parsing during speech processing, as these cues may direct listeners toward one interpretation or another.