Original Research

The acquisition of constructions: Does modality matter?

Richenda Wright, Salomé Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Elodie Winckel, Ewa Dąbrowska
Reading & Writing | Vol 15, No 1 | a489 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v15i1.489 | © 2024 Richenda Wright, Salomé Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Elodie Winckel, Ewa Dąbrowska | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 February 2024 | Published: 12 June 2024

About the author(s)

Richenda Wright, Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Theology, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
Salomé Geertsema, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mia le Roux, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Elodie Winckel, Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Theology, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
Ewa Dąbrowska, Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Theology, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany

Abstract

Background: Language analytic ability is well researched in the context of foreign language acquisition but its role in the acquisition of grammar in the native language is under investigation.

Objectives: Our study explored the influence of language analytic ability and print exposure on receptive grammar and reading comprehension in childhood. Additionally, we investigated whether exposure to specific constructions through the written modality held an advantage over exposure in the audio modality.

Method: We assessed the language analytic ability, reading comprehension, reading fluency, print exposure, and receptive grammar of 12-year-olds. Subsequently, we exposed them to written or spoken target constructions, followed by an assessment of receptive grammar. Linear regression models were used to analyse the contributions of reading fluency, print exposure, and language analytic ability to reading comprehension and receptive grammar. We also examined the influence of the intervention on receptive grammar.

Results: Language analytic ability and print exposure significantly predicted receptive grammar. Print exposure significantly predicted reading comprehension and improvement in receptive grammar.

Conclusion: Language analytic ability is important for grammar and reading comprehension development. Print exposure enhances reading comprehension by supporting vocabulary development and providing exposure to intricate structures. Both language analytic ability and experience are key factors in construction acquisition.

Contribution: This study adds to the growing body of evidence emphasising the role of language analytic skills in native language grammar acquisition and advocates for explicit grammar teaching. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of adequate print exposure in grammar acquisition and the development of reading comprehension skills.


Keywords

literacy; print exposure; language aptitude; grammar; language analytic ability

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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