[PS-2.21] Development of syntactic awareness of Chinese primary school children: The relative contribution of morphosyntactic skill and word-order knowledge to Chinese reading comprehension

Siu, C. T. 1 , Ho, C. S. 1 , Chan, D. W. 2 , Chung, K. K. 3 , Lee, S. 1 & Tsang, S. 4

1 The University of Hong Kong
2 The Chinese University of Hong Kong
3 The Hong Kong Institute of Education
4 Education Bureau, Hong Kong SAR Government

The present study attempted to examine the development of contribution made by individual syntactic measure in explaining reading ability across age among Chinese school-aged children in Hong Kong. Study 1 is a cross-sectional study in which we administered two syntactic tasks (morphosyntactic correction and word-order correction) and Chinese reading comprehension measure to 266 Hong Kong Chinese first to sixth graders. In junior grades, morphosyntactic and word-order correction each contributed a significant amount of unique variance to reading comprehension in Chinese, with age, nonverbal IQ and Chinese word reading statistically controlled. When proceeding to later grades, only morphosyntactic correction was uniquely associated with Chinese reading comprehension among third and fourth graders, while word-order knowledge became the only unique correlate of Chinese reading comprehension in Grades 5 and 6. Study 2 is a 3-year longitudinal study assessing the predictive power of early syntactic performance on later reading success at two levels (sentence- and passage-level) among Chinese children from Grade 2 (Time 1) to Grade 4 (Time 3). Results showed that after controlling age, nonverbal IQ, Chinese word reading, and the auto-regressor, both Grade 2 word-order correction and Grade 2 morphosyntactic skill remained unique longitudinal predictors of sentence comprehension one year later. However, Grade 2 word-order knowledge did not explain significant unique variance on Grade 3 sentence comprehension once Grade 2 morphosyntactic skill was controlled. On the passage level, Grade 2 word-order correction, but not morphosyntactic correction, uniquely predicted passage comprehension in Grades 3 and 4 after taking into account the control variables and the auto-regressor. The findings collectively revealed a stronger association between morphosyntactic skill and sentence comprehension, whereas word-order knowledge is more related to passage comprehension, implying that different syntactic measures may be sensitive in tapping syntactic skill at different age and reading-level.