Complexity of morphological, syntactic, and narrative characteristics: A comparison of children with reading difficulties and children who can read

A Cohen, R. Schiff, M. Gillis-Carlebach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The basic assumption behind the present study is that reading is first and foremost a linguistic skill, and that its acquisition is thus associated with linguistic ability. The study compares the morphological, syntactic and narrative components of verbal ability in the spoken and written language of skilled and unskilled readers. It also investigates whether or not poor and skilled readers use the same linguistic criteria in their transition from speech to writing. The study compared the verbal output of 45 poor readers with that of 41 skilled readers in grades 3-6, who were matched in background variables, non-verbal intelligence, and who had no physiological or developmental problems. None had been kept back a year either in kindergarten or school. Results showed that poor readers are inferior to skilled readers in their use of the morphological, syntactic, and narrative components of the text that indicate linguistic richness ; and that in both speech and writing, they make more false starts and have lower verbal output. Both groups showed improvement in written linguistic expression than in speech, in terms of syntactic and narrative indices, although the discrepancy between them remained the same. On the other hand, the skilled readers showed a distinct improvement in the morphological indices in the transition from speech to writing, while the poor readers showed very little and insignificant improvement. This difference suggests that the failure of poor readers to make better use of the morphological components indicates a deficiency in their linguistic development. In light of the above findings, the AA. recommend using a variety of linguistic measures to detect reading deficiencies early on. In addition, the AA. emphasize the need for educational intervention to raise linguistic ability so as to prevent reading difficulties and improve reading ability.
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)273-291
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

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