Attentional style, linguistic complexity and the treatment of reading difficulty

  • E.N. Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Part One. Early or "apprentice" reading is widely assumed to necessitate phonological encoding as mediational between the printed stimulus and meaning. Mature reading appears to be able to avoid phonological encoding, proceeding directly to meaning. In order to determine preference for encoding modality, 148 "apprentice" readers were subjected to separate conditions to auditory-phonological and visuographic interference of possible meaningfulness whilst reading prose passages. Subjects preferring the visual modality had greater reading difficulty than subjects showing preference for auditory processing, whilst subjects who showed no distinct preference for either tended to be better readers.

Part Two. Prose passages of graded difficulty were analysed in terms of word-origin or mode of generation, number of morphographemes, and congruence of syllabic/morphographemic segmentation. All three variables were significantly correlated with age norm levels for word-recognition and comprehension for the passages. The resullts were taken to suggest an alternative basis for readability index whereby prose materials could be assigned to levels of difficulty for "apprentice" readers.

Part Three. To investigate the modified model of the reading process, a corpus of words of a predictably high level of difficulty was derived according to the findings of Part 2. Children with "specific reading difficulty" were taught to recognise and understand the words by (a) a specially-devised unimodel, visual method and (b) a "normal", bimodel, phonics method. The results of the application of a comprehensive test suggested the superiority of the unimodel over the bimodal. Within the unimodal group, visual-preferents performed significantly better than auditory-preferents, but auditory-preferents in the unimodal group performed significantly better than auditory-preferents in the group taught by the bimodal method. The results were taken to suggest the usefulness of the modified model of reading automaticity, whereby the direct grapheme-to-meaning path is possible for "apprentice" readers, in the treatment of "specific reading difficulty". The implication of the findings for treatment of other communication difficulties were also discussed.
Date of Award1978
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNorman Graham (Supervisor)


  • Attentional style
  • linguistic complexity
  • treatment of reading difficulty
  • Dyslexia
  • Language
  • Reading
  • Remediation

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