Towards a universal model of reading investigations into Persian monolingual and English-Persian bilingual speakers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The research reported in this thesis aimed to investigate potential cognitive-linguistic predictors of reading comprehension levels amongst Persian monolingual and Persian-English bilingual primary school children. The Persian orthography, unlike English, is written from right to left. It is cursive and most of the letters change their shape when connecting to letters on one or both sides. The orthography also has the feature of using marks to represent sounds within the language. These marks are not always included in written text, particularly when the text is targeted at more experienced readers. Over 200 school-children in Iran from grades 2 to 5 were given measures of text reading comprehension involving Cloze completion or passages followed by questions. Comprehension levels were compared to scores on measures of language competence, phonological ability, orthographic processing and speed of processing. Analyses indicated that Persian reading comprehension levels, consistent with English models of reading, were predicted by measures of linguistic competence and word decoding, with the latter being predicted by phonological and orthographic processing skills. However, orthographic skills and speed of processing showed predictions of Persian reading comprehension independent of word decoding processes, findings that differed to those predicted from the English-language derived models. These findings were examined among over 150 Persian-English bilingual children in Persian grades 2 to 5 who attending mainstream schools in New Zealand or Australia. These children were being educated in an English medium context, but with Persian as their home language. Analyses of predictors of reading levels verified the findings reported from the monolingual data. In addition, comparisons of good and poor reading comprehenders argued for deficits in either language or word decoding skills to potentially produce different sub-groups of poor readers, with the findings also being consistent with deficits in phonological decoding and/or orthographic processing skills consistent with dual-route or triangle models of literacy learning disabilities. The thesis findings were used to derive a model of Persian reading comprehension similar to the simple view of reading. The findings can also inform the development of cross-language models of reading and global theories of reading comprehension.