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        Word-solving Strategies of AFL and ASL Readers

         The Influence of Language Proficiency and Content Familiarity 

Abstract

 

The purpose of this study is to explore word-solving strategies employed by both learners of Arabic as a foreign language and Arabic as a second language. It examines the influence of the social environment on the ways learners comprehend unknown words while reading.

The main areas of concern are the effect of language proficiency on the use of word-solving strategies, and whether or not the use of strategies varies between proficient and less proficient learners. This study also investigates the effect of content familiarity on word-solving strategies, and whether or not word-solving strategies vary according to differences in learners’ familiarity with texts.

The corpus of the collected data follows three methods: questionnaires, think-aloud protocol (TAP) technique and interviews. Thirty-six learners studying Arabic as a foreign language and Arabic as a second language (proficient and less proficient) were given multiple choice questionnaires so that they could indicate the strategies they used to comprehend unknown words. They were also asked to verbalise their thoughts while reading familiar and unfamiliar texts. Furthermore, they participated in open interviews which were tape-recorded and then transcribed into written protocols for quantitative and qualitative analysis.

This research has provided sufficient evidence to suggest that studying in a native environment facilitates the reading process and that familiarity with the text content makes reading easier. It has also provided evidence to show that both proficient and less proficient learners use the same word-solving strategies, but that proficient learners use it more adequately than their counterparts.

This thesis consists of ten chapters. Chapter One is an introduction outlining of the main topic of the study. Chapter Two represents the theoretical framework, directing the reader to understanding the practical findings which have emerged from this study. In Chapters Three and Four we review the literature related to the main areas of concern, particularly language proficiency, content familiarity and the interpretation of unknown words and reading strategies. The methodology of the study instruments and texts which were used in the fieldwork is discussed in Chapter Five. It also includes the participants, the procedure, the study design and the data analysis techniques. Chapters Six and Seven examines local word-based strategies. The emphasis in Chapters Eight and Nine is laid on global meaning-based strategies namely, content strategies and socio-cultural strategies. Finally, Chapter Ten summarises the main findings of this study, outlines its implications and makes some recommendations for future research in word-solving strategies.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction………………...…………...……………………. 1-9

1.1 The background to the study

1

1.2 The need for this study

2

1.3 The statement of the problem

4

1.4 The context of the study

5

      1.4.1 TASL in Riyadh

5

      1.4.2 TAFL in Leeds

6

1.5 The purpose of the study

6

1.6 The research questions

7

1.7 Research hypotheses

7

1.8 An overview of the methodology

8

1.9 An outline of the study

8

Chapter Two: Foreign and Second language Reading Models…………...10-35

2.1 Introduction

10

2.2 Interactive model

10

2.3 Schema theory                                                                                    

13

      2.3.1 The functions of schemata

14

            2.3.1.1 Facilitating comprehension

14

            2.3.1.2 Elaborating knowledge

15

            2.3.1.3 Allocating resources

17

            2.3.1.4 Organising knowledge

17

2.4 Constructive responsivity  theory

19

      2.4.1 The features of this theory

23

2.5 Variables which affect word-solving strategies

26

      2.5.1 Internal variables

27

            2.5.1.1 Language proficiency

27

            2.5.1.2 Content familiarity

28

      2.5.2 External variables

29

            2.5.2.1 Different cultural backgrounds

29

            2.5.2.2 The social environment

30

            2.5.2.3 Methods of instruction

31

      2.5.3 Personal variables

33

2.6 Conclusion

35

Chapter Three: The Role of Language Proficiency and Content Familiarity in Reading Comprehension……….……………………………………………36-69

3.1 Introduction

36

3.2 Language proficiency

36

      3.2.1 Metacognitive knowledge and reading strategies

38

      3.2.2 Reading proficiency and strategies used

43

      3.2.3 Transfer of reading strategies

48

3.3 Content familiarity

49

      3.3.1 Components of schema

52

            3.3.1.1 Formal schemata

53

            3.3.1.2 Content schemata

54

      3.3.2 The role of familiarity in the literature

57

            3.3.2.1 High knowledge versus low knowledge approach

59

            3.3.2.2 Cross-cultural approach

62

3.4 Conclusion

68

Chapter Four: Inferencing Unknown Words………….…………………70-100

4.1 Introduction

70

4.2 A definition of strategies

70

4.3 Taxonomies of strategies

73

      4.3.1 Reading strategies

73

      4.3.2 Vocabulary strategies

78

4.4 Inferences in reading comprehension

82

      4.4.1 Unknown words

82

      4.4.2 The process of inferencing

86

            4.4.2.1 Context clues

90

            4.4.2.2 Background knowledge

95

            4.4.2.3 Using a dictionary

98

4.5 Conclusion

99

Chapter Five: The Methodology of the Study…………………………..101-143

5.1 Introduction

101

5.2 Methods used in previous research

101

5.3 The methodological  framework of the present study

103

5.4 The research design

106

5.5 The research instruments

109

      5.5.1 Questionnaires

110

      5.5.2 Think-aloud technique

112

            5.5.2.1 Advantages of this method

113

            5.5.2.2 Criticisms of this method

114

            5.5.2.3 Reasons for applying this method

116

      5.5.3 Interviews

117

5.6 An evaluation of the instruments

119

5.7 Study texts

120

      5.7.1 Texts’ readability and familiarity

122

5.8 The participants

124

5.9 Data processing

127

      5.9.1 Transcribing

128

      5.9.2 Segmenting and labelling

128

      5.9.3 Categorizing

129

5.10 Data analysis techniques

129

5.11 Statistical analysis method

130

5.12 The pilot study

136

5.13 Reliability and validity

137

      5.13.1 Inter-coder reliability

139

      5.13.2 Intra-coder reliability

140

5.14 Conclusion

141

Chapter Six: Support Strategies……………..…………………………..144-175

6.1 Introduction

144

6.2 Support strategies

144

      6.2.1 “Omitting difficult words” strategy

147

      6.2.2 “ Re-reading” strategy

151

      6.2.3 “Reading-aloud” strategy

154

      6.2.4 “Question formulation” strategy

158

      6.2.5 “Guessing the meaning” strategy

162

      6.2.6 “Looking up words in a dictionary” strategy

166

6.3 Language proficiency

169

6.4 Content familiarity

173

6.5 Conclusion

175

Chapter Seven: Grammatical Strategies………………………………...176-204

7.1 Introduction

176

7.2 Grammatical strategies

176

      7.2.1 “Using grammatical rules” strategy

179

      7.2.2 “Using word derivation” strategy

184

      7.2.3 “Using word structure” strategy

189

      7.2.4 “Breaking words into constituent parts” strategy

193

7.3 Language proficiency

198

7.4 Content familiarity

201

7.5 Conclusion

203

Chapter Eight: Content Strategies……..………………………………...205-239

8.1 Introduction

205

8.2 Content strategies

205

      8.2.1 “Concentrating on the meaning of a passage” strategy

208

      8.2.2 “Looking back and checking” strategy

211

      8.2.3 “Reading ahead for clues” strategy

214

      8.2.4 “Speculation” strategy

217

      8.2.5 “Finding reasons why information is given” strategy

221

      8.2.6 “Forming a hypothesis about content” strategy

223

      8.2.7 “Using comparison and contrast” strategy

225

      8.2.8 “Connecting ideas together” strategy

228

8.3 Linguistic proficiency

234

8.4 Content familiarity

237

8.5 Conclusion

239

Chapter Nine: Socio-cultural Strategies…………………………………240-260

9.1 Introduction

240

9.2 Socio-cultural strategies

240

      9.2.1 “Relating words to personal knowledge” strategy

243

      9.3.2 “Using world knowledge” strategy

247

      9.2.3 “Using topic knowledge” strategy

250

9.3 Language proficiency

253

9.4 Content familiarity

255

9.5 Conclusion

259

Chapter Ten: Final Discussion and Implications……………………….261-270

10.1 Word-solving strategies

261

10.2 Proficient and less proficient learners

262

      10.2.1 Proficient learners are more successful in their use of strategies

263

      10.2.2 Proficient learners evaluate their comprehension and control their            .     strategies                                  

264

10.3 Environmental effects (AFL and ASL learners)

265

10.4 Study predictability

266

10.5 Implications of the study

266

      10.5.1 Implications for teaching word-solving strategies

267

      10.5.2 Recommendations for further research

269

Bibliography

271

Appendices

296

 

 

 

Abbreviations

 

 AFL                     Arabic as a foreign language

AFLL                      less proficient learners of Arabic as a foreign language

AFLP                      proficient learners of Arabic as a foreign language

ASL                       Arabic as a second language

ASLL                      less proficient learners of Arabic as a second language

ASLP                     proficient learners of Arabic as a second language

DTLS                     descriptive test of language skills

EAP                       English for academic purposes

ed/s                       editor/s

EFL                        English as a foreign language

e.g.                       for example

ESL                        English as a second language

ibid                       same source

KSU                       King Saud University

L1                         native language

L2                         second language

LFF                        less proficient foreign reader reading familiar text

LFU                      less proficient foreign reader reading unfamiliar text

lit.                                   literally

LSF                        less proficient second language reader reading of familiar text

LSU                      less proficient second language reader reading of unfamiliar text

M                          mean

N                                    number of cases

PFF                       proficient foreign reader reading of familiar text

PFU                                 proficient foreign reader reading of unfamiliar text

PSF                       proficient second language reader reading familiar text

PSU                                 proficient second language reader reading unfamiliar text

SILL                      strategy inventory for language learning

SLA                      second language acquisition.

SPSS                     Statistical Programme for Social Sciences

Std.                                 Standard deviation

TAFL                    teaching Arabic as a foreign language

TAP                                think-aloud protocol

TASL                    teaching Arabic as a second language

   

Glossary of Terms[1]

 

Bottom-up model of reading: A model of the reading process that describes the process as a sequence of discrete ‘steps’ in which the direction of processing is from ‘bottom-level’ features of text to ‘higher levels’, that is, from the identification of letters to sounds, to words, to sentences and finally to meaning and thinking.

 

Hypothesis: In the context of this study, a hypothesis refers to the expected finding. It is, also, a more or less well informed prediction about the identity of strategies.

 

Interactive model of reading: A model of reading which predicts that the different sources of information available in the reading process interact with each other, either supporting or refuting readers’ initial hypotheses. In such models, the reader is seen to be able to draw simultaneously, but selectively, upon a range of sources of information: visual, orthographic, lexical, semantic, syntactic and schematic, and to incorporate the mechanism of parallel processing, that is, the simultaneous processing of information from more than one source.

 

Introspective data and methods: Methods for investigating reading behaviour which involve the collection and analysis of readers’ reports (or protocols) of what they are thinking, feeling or doing during the process of reading.

 

Language proficiency: in this context refers to a particular threshold level of target language competence, which enables learners to deal with reading.

 

Metacognitive knowledge: A reader’s awareness of his/her own levels or degrees of understanding. It refers to knowledge that directs the reader in selecting reading strategies and controls his/her thinking and behaviour.

 

Protocols: Records, either on tape or in the form of a transcription, of subjects’ reports of their thinking processes.

 

Readability: A measure of the predicted difficulty of a text through reference to readability formulae of various kinds.

 

Reliability: The extent to which a test produces consistent results when administered under similar conditions.

 

Retrospection: Data collected from readers who report on their thinking after the reading task is completed.

 

Schema: A unit of knowledge that is part of the total set of schemata individuals are constantly recreating and upon which they draw in interpreting the meaning. With respect to reading, it is assumed that readers need to activate appropriate schemata for each new text they encounter. Schematic knowledge is also referred to as background knowledge and includes knowledge about content, culture, text structure, rhetorical patterns etc. and also information about how the knowledge is to be used.

 

Semantic relations: Relationships of meaning which hold between or amongst words or groups of words (lexical items) revealing their similarities or differences.

 

Strategy: A physical or mental action used consciously or unconsciously for the purpose of facilitating text comprehension.

 

Think-aloud: Data collected from individual readers who report on what they are thinking during the process of reading.

 

Top-down model of reading: A model of the reading process which predicts that the processing sequence proceeds from predictions about meaning to attention, to progressively smaller units.

 

Validity: The extent to which a test procedure serves the uses for which it was intended.



 

 
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