knowledge, or of language or of attentional capacity for efficient processing of language?
These are questions which should be investigated both by educational and cognitive psychologists as well as educators, writers and publishers concerned with very practical problems of matching texts and readers (Davis, 1995).
All pedagogy involves simplification in that it aims at expressing concepts, beliefs, attitudes, and so on in a way which is judged to be in accord with the knowledge and experience of learners. In language teaching, simplification usually refers to a kind of intra lingual translation whereby a piece of discourse is reduced to a version written in the supposed inter language of the learner (Widdowson, 1979). Simplification can be seen as a process in which the teacher or his agent consciously adjusts the language presented to the learner (Davis and Widdowson, 1974).
A useful distinction is made by Widdowson (1978) in discussing simplification between what the calls simplified versions and simple accounts. Simplified versions are, he suggests, passages which are derived from genuine instances of discourse by a process of lexical and syntactic substitution.
A simplified version, according to Widdowson, is a simplification of the language code . The original propositions are retained and what is changed is the linguistic connections between them.
A simple account, on the other hand, represents not an alternative textualization of a given discourse but different discourse altogether. In a simple account it is use of the code, the discourse itself that is changed; recast to suit a particular kind of reader. Widdowson makes clear that simple accounts are to be preferred to simplified version in that “…a simple account is a genuine instance of discourse, designed to meet a communicative purpose… a simplified version … is not genuine discourse, it is a contrivance for teaching language.”
Most helpful is the further distinction Widdowson hints at that simplified versions always have a source script which has been changed, whereas simple accounts have a source but no script (Davis, 1984).
A more general view of simplification is that it is used to make information available to an audience other than the one originally intended. All discourse even simplified versions, must be relevant to audience (ibid).
Simplification, thus, can be carried out at different levels. On the one hand, the simplifier can concentrate on replacing words and structures with approximate semantic equivalents in the learner’s inter language omitting whichever items prove intractable, thereby bringing the language of the original within the scope of the learners transitional linguistic competence .This kind of simplification focuses on the way in which the language system is manifested: It is an operation on usage. On the other hand, the simplifier can concentrate on making explicit in different terms the propositional content of the original and the ways in which it is presented in order to bring what is communicated in the original within the scope of the learner’s transitional communicative competence. In this case, Simplification focuses on the way in which the language system is realized for the expression of proposition and the performance of illocutionary acts: it is an operation on use (Widdowson, 1979).
Candido.et.al (2010) proposes a series of possible simplification operations to be applied:
2.8.1) Splitting the sentence
This operation is the most frequent one. It requires finding the split point in the original sentence (such as the boundaries of relative clauses and appositions, the position of coordinate or subordinate conjunctions) and the creation of a new sentence, whose subject corresponds to the replication of a noun phrase in the original sentence. This operation increases the text length, but decreases the length of the sentences. With the duplication of the term from the original sentence (as subject of the new sentence), the resulting text contains redundant information, but it is very helpful for students especially those with lower proficiency. When splitting sentences due to the presence of apposition, we need to choose the element in the original sentence to which it is referring, so that this element can be the subject of the new sentence. At the moment we analyze all NPs that precede the apposition and check for gender and number agreement. If more than one candidate passes the agreement test, we choose the closest one among these; if none does, we choose the closest among all candidates. In both cases we can also pass the decision on to the user. For treating relative clauses there is the same problem as for apposition (finding the NP to which the relative clause is anchored) and an additional one: we need to choose if the referent found should be considered the subject or the object of the new sentence.
Currently, the parser indicates the syntactic function of the relative pronoun and that serves as a clue.
2.8.2) Changing discourse marker
In most cases of subordination and coordination, discourse markers are replaced by most commonly used ones, which are more easily understood. The selection of discourse markers to be replaced and the choice of new markers are done based on the study of Pardo and Nunes (2008).
2.8.3) Transformation to active voice
Clauses in the passive voice are turned into active voice, with the reordering of the elements in the clause and the modification of the tense and form of the verb. Any other phrases attached to the object of the original sentence have to be carried with it when it moves to the subject position, since the voice changing operation is the first to be performed. For instance, the sentence:
“More than 20 people have been bitten by gold piranhas (Serrasalmus Spilopleura), which live in the waters of the Sanchuri dam, next to the BR-720 highway, 40 km from the city.”
is simplified to: “Gold piranhas (Serrasalmus Spilopleura), which live in the waters of the Sanchuri dam, next to the BR-720 highway, 40 km from the city, have bitten more than 20 people.”
After simplification of the relative clause and apposition, the final sentence is:
“Gold piranhas have bitten more than 20 people. Gold piranhas live in the waters of the Sanchuri dam, next to the BR-720 highway, 40 km from the city. Gold piranhas are Serrasalmus Spilopleura.”
2.8.4) Inversion of clause ordering
This operation was primarily designed to handle subordinate clauses, by moving the main clause to the beginning of the sentence, in order to help the reader processing it on their working memory (Graesser et al., 2004). Each of the subordination cases has a more appropriate order for main and subordinate clauses, so that “independent” information is placed before the information that depends on it. In the case of concessive subordinate clauses, for example, the subordinate clause is placed before the main clause. This gives the sentence a logical order of the expressed ideas. See the example below, in which there is also a change of discourse marker and sentence splitting, all operations assigned to concessive subordinate clauses:
“The building hosting the Brazilian Consulate was also evacuated, although the diplomats have obtained permission to carry on working.”
Its simplified version becomes: “The diplomats have obtained permission to carry on working. But the building hosting the Brazilian Consulate was also evacuated.”
2.8.5) Subject-Verb-Object ordering
If a sentence is not in the form of subject-verb-object, it should be rearranged. This operation is based only on information from the syntactic parser. The example below shows a case in which the subject is after the verb: “On the 9th of November of 1989, fell the wall that for almost three decades divided Germany.”
Its simplified version is: “On the 9th of November of 1989, the wall that for almost three decades divided Germany fell.”
ization and detopicalization
This operation is used to topicalize or detopicalize an adverbial phrase. It has been observed that moving adverbial phrases to the end or to the front of sentences can make them simpler in some cases. For instance, the sentence in the last example would become:
“The wall that for almost three decades divided Germany fell on the 9th of November of 1989.”
Although through the process of simplifying a passage, individual lexical items and structures are brought within the scope of the learner’s linguistic competence, it does not necessarily make it easier for him to understand the passage as a whole. There are certain features of use which this process cannot, of its nature, account for. For instance, to understand the value that some words and items assume, the reader has to be able to associate them with what they refer to in the passage. So to simplify a passage, one may need to provide referential value for anaphoric elements where necessary. It is thus suggested that once an instance of use is interpreted, one can then proceed to restate it in a way which will make such an interpretation more accessible. This may incidentally involve simplifying usage, of course, but as a means to an alternative instance of use not as an end in itself (ibid).
In fact, simplification is defined as the process whereby a language user adjusts his language behavior in the interest of communicative effectiveness. The adjustment may involve either the increase or decrease in complexity of usage. This might appear to be perversely paradoxical. How can one talk of simplification which involves linguistic complexity? One can do so because effectiveness of use in a particular communicative situation might well require explicitness or conformity to accepted convention which calls for linguistic elaboration. This is a point which is frequently ignored by the authors of simplified readers and language teaching textbooks: the simplifying of usage does not necessarily result in the simplification of use, that is to say, it does not necessarily facilitate communication. On the contrary it very often makes communication less effective. As a matter of fact, the language teacher’s simplification of language data in the form of the conventional structural syllabus does not correspond with the learner’s simplification (ibid).
Parker and Chadron (1987) review 12 experimental studies ( including Johnson , 1981;Blau, 1982; Cervantes,1983; Brown , 1987; Haudron & Richards , 1986_Cited in Barzegar,1997) of the effect of input modifications on comprehension and conclude that although linguistic modifications (for example simple syntax) helped comprehension they did not do so consistently . It has also been shown that revising a text to make the sentences shorter and the words simpler , does not increase comprehension , and the studies show that the same factors , complex morphology and sentence connective , actually convey information about meaning in an explicit may , and so are not barriers to comprehension for most readers (Anderson & Davison ,1983).
On the other hand, Berman (1984) concluded that readers who read the syntactically adapted version did consistently better on all types of questions. He, Furthermore, adds that efficient FL readers must rely in part on syntactic devices to get at text meaning. It is also suggested that the reader should be helped in terms of vocabulary by the provision of some form of familiarization (context clue, illustration, translation, definition, etc) where necessary (Williams, 1996).
Petersen (2007) addresses the task of text simplification in the context of second-language learning. A data-driven approach to simplification is proposed using a corpus of paired articles in which each original sentence does not necessarily have a corresponding simplified sentence, making it possible to learn where writers have dropped or simplified sentences. A classifier