Van Reybroeck, M. 1 , Delaere, S. 2 , Hupet, M. 1 & Schelstraete, M. 1
1 Université catholique de Louvain
2 Hôpital Universitaire Erasme, Bruxelles
Grammatical awareness can be defined as an explicit knowledge about the grammatical attributes of language. It can be viewed as composed of two abilities: syntactic awareness and morphological awareness. So far, the literature has focused on morphological awareness and showed only one discrepancy between dyslexic children and chronological age matched children whereas no difference have been found between dyslexic children and reading age matched children. The present study aimed to compare syntactic awareness (i.e., identification of the grammatical subject of the sentence) and grammatical spelling (i.e., subject-verb agreement) among children with and without dyslexia. Twenty dyslexic children were compared to16 grammatical spelling age matched children. Two tasks were administrated to participants: 1) a grammatical spelling task where children had to listen to 24 sentences and to fill them in under dictation with nouns and verbs; 2) a syntactic awareness task where children had to identify the grammatical subject of the same 24 sentences. The second task was done after another task and participants were asked to use a different colour pen. Four types of sentence structures were presented and the sentences were controlled for length, level of acquisition of lexical spelling and word frequency. The results showed that children with dyslexia were less accurate at identifying the grammatical subject of the sentence than spelling age matched children, even though both groups of participants correctly marked the same number of verb agreements. These findings suggest that children with dyslexia have a specific deficit of syntactic awareness that can explain their difficulties in grammatical spelling. This can be useful to plan how these abilities can be better developed at school or during a treatment.