II ‑ Review of the Literature


Cognition and Bilingualism


No matter what the conditions of bilingual language learn­ing, it seems to be cognitively more difficult to become bilingual than to become monolingual. Parents often report that their children who are exposed to two languages avoid the problem by refusing to speak one of the languages. Only when the status of the two languages is both high and relatively equal, and when both languages are spoken by individuals important to the child that the child raises to the challenge of becoming bilingual. Bilingual children seem to be re­quired to exercise extra effort in language learning. They may be dis­posed to attend to feedback cues as the most immediate way of accommo­dating to the immediate language requirements, Ben Zeev, (1975).

Killian, (1971), compared the performance of 84 subjects (42 monolinguals and 42 Bilingual Mexican Americans) on the Weschler Intelligence Text. The bilingual subgroup performance indicated def­icits in certain areas, which were not present in the monolingual group. This study lacked the information about the length of time spent in this country, the children’s' language background and the time exposed to English.


Van Metre, (1972), mentions the possibility of different rates of language development in the bilingual child, which would explain a retardation in certain skills in either the first or the second language of the child. Leopold, (1939‑1949), kept a diary of his daughter's speech development over a two‑year period in both English and German. He states that one of the advantages of learning two languages simultaneously was that the child paid more attention to things and situations rather than focusing on the words themselves.


Burling, (1959), studied the speech development of his son in both Garo and English over a period of one year. The experimenter indicates that the child maintained each language system separately and that both his phonological and syntactic production was superior in each language.


According to some studies, it was concluded that bilingualism is a deterrent to the child's language development or performance. “The cause of a negative effect is sometimes explained by language inter­ference or by a low socio‑economic status. On the other hand, studies by Lerea and Kolhurt, (1961), Mazeika, (1971), Spencer, Mishra and Ghaziel, (1971) and Feldman and Sheen, (1971), indicate that bilingualism is not a handicap, but rather, an advantage to normal language and cog­nitive development. Lerea and Kolhurt, (1971), tested two groups of 30 monolinguals and 30 bilinguals between the ages of 9 and 11, with dif­ferent linguistic backgrounds. After a series of tests, the results in­dicated that the bilingual children were able to learn the task more rapidly than the monolinguals.


Mazeika, (1971) studied the speech development of a Mexican American boy in both Spanish and English between the age of 7 and 3 months. The result indicated that being bilingual is an advantage when one can select words that are easier to articulate from either language and insert these words interchangeably.

Spencer, Mishra and Ghazeil, (1971) tested 146 six‑year‑old Mexican‑American children in Arizona. This group was divided in two according to the language spoken by their parents. Once again, there was a difference between the two groups in favor of the bilinguals.

Feldman and Sheen, (1971) asked 15 bilingual Mexican‑American children and 15 monolingual children to observe object constancy. Re­sults indicated that the bilingual group performed better than the monolingual group on several tasks.


Grammar and Reading


Structural linguists agree that grammatical structure pro­vides cues that help the reader by making clear how words function and how they are related in utterances. Gaining access to meaning through reading depends strictly on prior mastery of the language structure that leads to it, Le Fevre, (1961); therefore, comprehension depends upon understanding the structures that signal meaning; the grammar of the language. Allen, (1964), theorized a necessity for recognizing sentence part, structural units, prior to understanding how they re­lated to each other. Allen also states that identifying essential sen­tence parts is a prerequisite to comprehending sentence meaning.


 Center, (1952), stated that working knowledge of syntax is a must to competence in speaking, reading and writing a language. Therefore, lack of knowledge of sentence structure plays its part in a failure to read competently. Fries, (1963), presented a statement in support of the theory that sentence meaning and grammatical structure are related.

Several studies have investigated the relationship between.


Knowledge of grammatical structure and reading comprehension. They can be grouped into three types; studies, which attempted instruction, de­signed to improve knowledge of grammatical structure and measured growth in reading comprehension; studies which analyzed comprehension difficulties inherent in various sentence structures to determine wheth­er certain factors of sentence structure were related to comprehension difficulty; and studies which attempted to determine whether a demon­strated relationship existed between reading comprehension and knowledge of grammatical structure through a correlation study.


Hetrick, (1958), Rinne, (1967), and Reed, (1957) studied the effect of training in sentence structure knowledge on reading compre­hension scores. The purpose of Hetricz's study was to test the hypo­thesis that pupils will show a gain in reading comprehension scores after receiving extra training in sentence structure knowledge. Seventy-five pairs of seventh‑grade pupils were matched on the basis of reading comprehension scores, intelligence, and sex. The tests used were the Iowa Silent Reading Comprehension Test, and the horge‑Thorndike Test of Mental Ability.


For 3 1/2 months the experimental group was given extra train­ing in the elements of grammar related to sentence structure. Extra training consisted of twenty‑five additional periods of instruction. This instruction included identification of complete subjects and predicates, complete and incomplete sentences, transitive and intransi­tive verbs, prepositions and prepositional phrases, and adjective and adverbial clauses; combining simple sentences from normal order to

inverted order and from inverted order to normal order; conjugation of verbs; diagramming sentences; and the like. The subjects were given a reading comprehension test both before and after the experimental training program, and comparisons were made between the gains made by the experimental and control groups. Either the poor readers or the good readers made no significant gains, and Hetrick concluded that there is no evidence to support a conclusion that the extra training given the experimental group resulted in any significant gain in silent reading comprehension.


Rinne used a system of programmed instruction for ninth‑grade‑students in "remedial" English classes. Thirteen classes were given five weeks of training in sentence pattern awareness. Thirteen classes served as the control group and received no training. The purpose of the study was to determine whether training in pattern awareness im­proves sentence comprehension. Rinne constructed the programmed mat­erials used in the study, as well as a Sentence Pattern Awareness Test.

The study did not show a high correlation between pattern awareness and literal comprehension in reading. The study did produce a pattern awareness test, which uses no formal grammatical terminology or nonsense words, and although the primary purpose of the study, syn­tactic training, did not occur, Rinne considered the test to be a val­uable contribution to the future study of syntactic knowledge of high school students.


Reed devised thirty lessons designed to emphasize comprehen­sion skills through directed study of syntax. Fifteen weeks were spent in instruction. The experimental group spent three days a week in regular English class and two days in reading instruction. The control group did not receive any instruction in addition to regular English class. At the end of the instructional period, a reading test was ad­ministered (Nelson‑Form B) and compared with the scores obtained on the (Nelson Form A) which had been administered prior to instruction. The experimental group was significantly superior to the control group in gain score on paragraph comprehension (.O1). The pupils studied in this investigation were seventh‑graders. Reed felt that the seventh grade is a critical stage in a pupil's development in reading.


Henley, (1938), Helpin, (1948), Mullen, (1943), and Fish, (1951), studied the relationship of sentence structure to reading com­prehension by examining the comprehension difficulties of various sen­tence structures. The purpose of all of these studies was to arrange in order of difficulty a variety of sentence structures and to deter­mine the degree to which they present comprehension difficulties for children. Henley, Helpin, and Fish directed their studies toward the middle elementary grades (four, five, and six)‑. The Mullen study ex­amined the problem at the eighth grade level. All of the studies con­structed original tests because of the difficulty of finding a stan­dardized test on reading matter containing the constructions to be tested.


De Lancey, (1962), attempted to determine whether knowledge of grammar was an important factor related to reading success. To do this he constructed a test using nonsense words to measure pupils' abilities to recognize form classes of words, when they were given structural cues of position, word forms, and structure words. The subjects were

316 fifth grade pupils and 261 ninth grade pupils. Pupils were also given intelligence and achievement tests. The data were subjected to factor analysis, the results of which led the author to conclude that .the ability to recognize form classes from structural cues was a factor in reading comprehension at both grade levels. Knowledge of vocabulary, however, contributed far more to the variance in compre­hension test scores. The nature of De Lancey's test of knowledge of grammar warrants consideration. The pupils in this study had to "recognize" elements only. They were required to select from a four option multiple response type test the word which correctly matched the form class demanded by the blank in the stimulus sentence. Subjects were required to demonstrate a fairly comprehensive understanding of the components of structural meaning, that is, they had to respond to word order, word form, and structure word, but they were not required to demonstrate sensitivity to total structural pattern.


Correlation studies proposing to demonstrate a relationship between knowledge of sentence structure and reading comprehension were conducted by O'Donnell and Sauer, (1968). These studies were completed on contrasting samples of the population. O'Donnell asked 101 high school seniors to demonstrate knowledge of grammatical structure on an S0‑item; three option multiple response type test. He constructed a test designed to measure an awareness of grammatical principles with a minimum use of grammatical terms. Most of the nouns, verbs, adject­ives, and adverbs in the option sentences were replaced by nonsense words. Normal English word order was used along with English function words (prepositions, conjunctions; articles, and auxiliaries). In­flectional and derivational affixes were used. The standardized reading test used to measure reading comprehension was the Test CL: Reading Comprehension. O'Donnell reported a very low correlation (.44) between knowledge of grammatical structure and reading compre­hension.


Reading and Dialect


Thornis (1974) also stated that even the most skilled stu­dent who can decode the English writing system might experience some difficulty in comprehending what he has decoded if his teacher has not recognized interference from his native language. This is also true for the Spanish-speaking student with syntactical inter­ference from another language.

In another study dealing with the relation of language de­velopment and reading, linguists such as Baratz, (1970), and Labov, (1970), have presented evidence that black American children are not linguistically deprived nor deficient in language, but that they speak a well‑ordered, highly structured and highly developed language system which in many aspects is different from standard English. Baratz, (1970), suggested that we have tried to teach these children to read in a language which is different from the one they speak.


There is no reason to believe that there is a single cause of reading failure among "disadvantaged" children, any more than there is reason to believe that there is a single cause of reading failure among the general population. Labov (1970) found that most successful, popular and verbal members of the street culture peer groups were the poorest readers. Many of them were almost total non‑readers and Labov suggested that the real cause for this was a conflict of value systems and a rejection of the dominant culture.


In diagnosing a‑child's reading, Labov (1970), or in testing him for proper placement in a book or reading group, it is crucial to distinguish between reading errors indicating genuine difficulty with the material and errors which simply reflect the different pronunciation and syntax of his dialect.


The Tarascan study, Barrera‑Vasquez, (1953) showed that Indian children introduced to reading in their first language were better readers by the end of the second year than were students who had all their instruction in Spanish, their second language. Ostberg, (1961), found that children taught to read in their local dialect of Swedish first, and then transferred to standard Swedish, were able to read standard Swedish better than those who began reading in the stan­dard dialect.

Hutson‑Powers, (1974), suggested that the greater difficulty in comprehending less familiar sentences when syntactic form is not supported by semantic components of grammar may play an important role in the child's acquisition of syntactic comprehension. According to Lawrence, (1974), it was found that children found learning to read more difficult as a task when their oral language experience is dif­ferent from the language of the materials used in the semantic reading. These differences are semantic, syntactic and phonological, so that these students are in a sense involved in the learning of a new variety of their language as well as in the learning of reading skills.


In studies conducted with bilingual adults, Kolers, (1973), Rose and Carroll, (1974), Rose and King and Perez have found that when subjects are presented with mixed language lists, there is a tendency to correctly recall more words in their native language than in their second language. When presented with mixed language lists, bilingual subjects will resort to their native language to get meaning from the symbols, especially in the initial stages of becoming bilingual.


Dialect has been a prominent suspect for the past ten years as a causal factor in the disparity between achievement of the majority group and certain minority groups, Lucas‑Singer (1975).


Empirical studies for resolving the controversy of the re­lationship between dialect and reading achievement have been studied by Tireman, (1948), Rosen and Ortego, (1969). There is nevertheless a climate of opinion that Mexican‑American dialect does interfere with reading achievement. Chomsky, (1970) has argued on theoretical grounds that dialect differences in syntax and lexical items but no phonology, are likely to interfere in reading comprehension. Some caution had to be exercised with regard to the statement above. Holland (1960) has indicated that reading inability among Mexican‑American children may not only be related to language barrier, in the present case, a phono­logical one, but also to low socio‑economic status.


Interference and Reading


It is likely that the reading problems of the low income child who also belongs to an ethnic minority may involve additional linguistic and motivational considerations beyond those which need to be considered for a low income child who is not also a member of a socially defined minority, Seitz, (1971).


Dialect differences have been documented in choice of vocabulary, in pronunciation and in grammar, Baratz, (19703. The first of these sources, lexical preferences probably has relatively little influence upon reading if they are fluent readers. Phonemic differ­ences may be a more potent source of difficulty than vocabulary differ­ences. At some point conflicts between written and spoken language must cause difficulty, Weber (1970). Thus the major research issue is to explore the degree to which the child's spoken language and the written language can differ before the task of learning the language to be read interferes with the task of learning to read. Among those theorists who believe that dialectical differ­ences are an important source of cognitive difficulty for children who are learning to read, it is generally agreed that grammatical differ­ences probably provide the most important source of confusion, Baratz, (1969).  Such grammatical variations include a number of morphological   and syntactical differences between standard and non‑standard speech.


At the cognitive level the nature of grammatical interference could reside primarily in the fact that non‑familiar syntax and mor­phological markers reduce the child's ability to predict what is coming and thus weaken valuable cues of contact, Burke (1973).


Jacobovitz, (1967) states that interference and dependence of the first language on the second language play a greater or lesser role, depending on which aspect of the language is considered. The subject develops a cross‑cultural semantic system; a kind of flavoring of semantic factors which curie through cross‑cultural contact.


MacNamara, (1967), based his assumptions that the languages were independent on a series of experiments he ran with bilingual stu­dents' teachers (Irish‑English). The results indicated differences between skills in tasks depending on the degree of bilingualism of the individual.


Tulving and Cocolta, (1970), administered a list in one, two, or three languages to a group of eight trilingual university students (English‑French‑Spanish), as well as a reading list in the three lang­uages. The authors found that for normal speed the anilingual lists were recalled just as well as the multilingual list. In contract, Dalton, (1973) tested 6$ bilingual English‑Spanish students on their ability to recall bilingual and monolingual list words. It was found that the students recalled the anilingual list better than the bilingual list, with the Spanish lists and words better recalled than the English ones.


Freytes, (1977) found that children benefited differently from Spanish and English mediation. The mediation provided in the second language facilitated learning of the paired associates list more than mediation provided in the native language. Freytes also emphasized the need to explore the possibility that in some cases mediation may cause interference in the learning of paired associates.


In a study done by Leopold (1939‑49), he found that when two languages are in contact and the child is learning them simultaneously, attention is paid to things and situations rather than to words.




  1. There is a greater difficulty in reading comprehen­sion in Spanish relative to the amount of English interference in the Spanish grammatical system.
  2. There will be a significant difference between stu­dents who scored higher in the oral interference test and their reading comprehension achievement in Spanish.
  3. There is a relationship between the knowledge of the written language (Standard Spanish) and the ability to comprehend reading.


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