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Title:Individual differences in syntactic processing during reading: a psycholinguist’s “two disciplines” problem
Author(s):James, Ariel Nicole
Director of Research:Watson, Duane G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dell, Gary S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Brown-Schmidt, Sarah; Benjamin, Aaron S.; Fraley, R. Chris
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Self-paced reading
Individual differences
Abstract:Psycholinguists have identified syntactic structures that are consistently more difficult to read than others. To understand why readers find these structures difficult (and thus, what mechanisms underlie syntactic processing in these contexts), one line of research has sought to link individual differences in reading to individual differences in cognitive abilities. Put another way: how do cognitive differences between readers interact with syntactic processing effects observed across readers? This dissertation describes a single study in which 133 young adults read sentences via a self-paced moving window paradigm and then completed a battery of 16 tasks to assess their abilities in the following areas: language experience, phonological ability, working memory, inhibitory control, and perceptual speed. Three syntactic phenomena were chosen for the current investigation: the relative processing difficulty for object- versus subject-extracted relative clauses; the effect of verb biases in reading a sentential complement; and the tendency to resolve relative clause attachment ambiguities to low attachment sites. Each of these effects is well documented in the psycholinguistic literature, and each has been implicated in processing theories that predict effects of individual differences between adult readers. In both a multi-level mixed-effects regression analysis (1A) and a latent variable analysis (1B), we find correlations between measures of individual differences (notably language experience and memory span scores) and overall reading comprehension, reading speed, and relative clause attachment ambiguity resolution (lower working memory is associated with a high attachment preference). Experimental effects on reading time were not consistent measures within individual subjects, which we suggest limits their ability to correlate with other measures and might explain controversy in the literature over how individual differences are linked to language processing.
Issue Date:2017-07-13
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Ariel James
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08

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