d that the reading level of the textbooks tended to be above the reading ability of majority of students.
The same findings were reported by Singer (1989). He noted that the reading requirements of the various subjects in the textbooks are burdensome. Furthermore, a brief survey of ESP students’ language proficiency and their textbooks in Iran reveals that they are not well-matched. Such novice readers get easily frustrated and discourage unless text would be modified adequately. So there is a need to make reading materials appropriate syntactically so that there is a match between students’ knowledge of grammar and the syntax of reading material.
Although previous studies have generally found that textual Modification improves L2 comprehension, there is still a need of further research in order to confirm their relative effectiveness.
1.7) Definition of key terms
1.7.1) Textual modification
Is the process of reducing the grammatical complexity of a text, while retaining its information content and meaning .It refers to the modification of those structures considered to be difficult for EFL learners. Simplifying at the syntactic level has been defined as shorter sentences, increased clarity between sentence constituents and a closer adherence to the basic SVO word order of English (Beck et al., 1984; Hatch, 1983). It seems logical that if sentences look easier to a native speaker, they will be easier for an L2 reader to comprehend.
1.7.2) Reading comprehension
In this study refers to the scores obtained by subjects on multiple-choice questions of a reading test. Reading is an active process. The reader forms a preliminary expectation about the material, and then selects the fewest, most productive cues necessary to confirm or reject the expectation. This is a sampling process in which the reader takes advantage of his knowledge of vocabulary, syntax, discourse, and the real world
In this chapter the literature related to reading and simplification has been briefly reviewed followed by statement of the problem. The study is going to investigate the effect of textual simplification on Iranian EFL learners’ reading comprehension ability. In the next section the purpose of the study has been stated followed by the research question. The researcher is going to answer the research question through formulating a null hypothesis. After stating the significance of the study, key terms have been defined.
REVIEW 0F THE RELATED LITERATURE
The present chapter reviews the literature related to reading comprehension and modification. First of all, in “Theoretical framework” section some related studies will be reviewed. In the second section “Reading Comprehension, Past and present”, the literature on approaches to reading, its different definitions, models and theories of reading comprehension will be examined and reviewed, followed by different processes involved in reading. The other section, “Reading Materials”, will investigate the literature on appropriate reading material followed by components of appropriacy. Then, some sources of syntactic complexity will be mentioned. The other section will investigate the relationship between syntactic complexity and reading comprehension. Then, in “Simplification of reading materials” different simplification techniques will be discussed. At the end, the relationship between simplification and authenticity will be mentioned.
2.1) Theoretical framework
One of the fundamental issues in teaching reading is providing the learners with “appropriate” material. “Appropriacy” for the material, however, is not an absolute or independent characteristic. It gains significance only when the consumers, the readers, are brought into the picture. In other words, there should be a match between intended readers general proficiency with the reading material. As Paulston and Bruder (1976) hold:
“The most important consideration in selecting text is the level of reading difficulty which must be matched to the overall proficiency of students (p: 160).”
Davison (1988) stated that over 60 percent of native speakers of English were attempting to read materials in various subjects which had been judged to be too difficult for their reading skills and general reading development. Thonis (1970) conducted similar studies on high school textbooks. They found that the reading level of the textbooks tended to be above the reading ability of majority of students.
The same findings were reported by Singer (1989). He noted that the reading requirements of the various subjects in the textbooks are burdensome. Furthermore, a brief survey of ESP students’ language proficiency and their textbooks in Iran reveals that they are not well-matched. Such novice readers get easily frustrated and discourage unless text would be modified adequately. So there is a need to make reading materials appropriate syntactically so that there is a match between students’ knowledge of grammar and the syntax of reading material. Actual evidence for the strength of simplified texts lies in experimental studies. For instance, Long and Ross (1993) compared comprehension scores of L2 readers using three versions of the same text authentic, simplified, and elaborated versions.
Long and Ross found that students who read the linguistically simplified text scored significantly higher on multiple choice items meant to test comprehension than did those that read the authentic version. They also found that students who read the elaborated version did not score significantly better than those that read the authentic or the simplified text. These results were replicated in a follow up study (Yano, Long, & Ross, 1994) which demonstrated that there were no significant differences between simplified and elaborated texts, but simplified texts showed significant gains in reading comprehension over authentic texts whereas elaborated texts did show gain over authentic texts.
A later study conduct by Tweissi (1998) also found that simplification positively affected student’s reading comprehension. However, Tweissi found that it was the type of simplification and not the amount of simplification that played the most important role in assisting the students to understand the material (e.g., texts with simplified lexicon led to greater comprehension gains than did other types of text modifications). Overall, these studies support the basic notion behind simplified texts: that the use of simplified input results in more comprehensible language. According to Balaghizade, simplifying reading passages promotes reading comprehension (Balaghizade, 2010).
Abrahamsen and Shelton (1989) carried out a study in which twenty-two adolescents with learning disabilities were randomly assigned to four groups to determine the effect of semantic and syntactic complexity on the reading comprehension of content area prose. One group served as control group and read a social studies passage without simplification. The three treatment groups read passages with semantic and/or syntactic modifications. The result of the study indicated that comprehension was significantly better for those groups who read passages with combined semantic and syntactic modifications and syntactic modification alone, when they compared to the control group. It was also found that semantic modifications alone did not improve comprehension significantly.
As previously mentioned, text simplification is one way for second language learners to access the general message of authentic texts, without being stymied by language that falls outside the bounds of their abilities. Simplification has also been generally defined as any modification designed to make text more accessible to a reader (Young, 1999). Oh (2001) further specifies simplification as applying to the more basic units of vocabulary and syntax in a text.
These differing definitions indicate an important distinction t
hat must be made when dealing with any kind of text simplification-namely, that simplification can apply to different levels of a text. Research in readability and simplification has generally drawn lines between lexicon (word level), syntax, (sentence level), and discourse (text level) in written texts. On the surface, text simplification seems an attractive possibility for aiding reading comprehension for L2 learners. This has been shown to be the case in numerous studies of simplification, several of which are characterized in Table 1. Several other studies in the table, however, have demonstrated that simplification at the different levels of a text may actually hinder comprehension or other aspects of language learning.
Additionally, Oh (2001) points out that lexically simplified texts limit learners’ exposure to vocabulary and structure in the target language and may inhibit the development of reading skills such as inference. In examining the strengths and weaknesses of text simplification, it is clear that some intuitive assumptions about simplification may actually be false, and that different types of simplification may have unanticipated consequences, especially when considering varying proficiency levels of readers.
Table (2.1). Survey of Simplification Studies and Results (Cited in Brewer, 2008)
2nd year university/
Written recall and
word level, not
Significant aid to
but not form
Yano et al., 1994
aided, Not intake
length does not
Simplifying at the syntactic level has been defined as shorter sentences, increased clarity between sentence constituents and a closer adherence to the basic SVO word order of English (Beck et al., 1984; Hatch, 1983). It seems logical that if sentences look easier to a native speaker, they will be easier for an L2 reader to comprehend.
As it is obvious, there is no agreement among researchers about the effect of simplification on reading comprehension ability. Therefore, this study is going to investigate whether syntactic text simplification has any effect on EFL learners’ reading comprehension ability or not.
2.2) Reading Comprehension, Past and Present
A glance at studies done on reading comprehension reveals that in the past, the process of reading was not given enough attention. What the researchers were interested in, as a result, was the amount of information which a reader could get from text.
Another false belief about reading was that it was regarded as a passive skill since it involves no language production. In fact reading is not a passive, but rather an active, and in fact an interactive, process. But it is only recently that second/foreign language reading has been viewed as an active rather than a passive process. Early working second language reading assumed a rather passive, bottom-up, view of second