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Graphic Display of Linguistic Information thank you Suzuki, Sato, and Awazu

July 20, 2010

Today, I read an article from TESOL Quarterly, the December 2008 issue. The citation is at the end of this post. The authors did two studies testing hypotheses about the use of graphical display of coordinating conjunctions in EFL reading. The studies involved students processing either linear or graphical representations of sentences using coordinating conjunctions at the phrase level (based on their examples). Their results suggest that the cognitive processing for understanding coordinated sentences lessens with a graphical representation. Their second study indicates that instructing readers in using the graphical representation techniques improve their performance.

They give four steps for rearranging a sentential text into a spatial representation.

  1. Identify the word classes of the words located immediately after the coordinating conjunctions.
  2. Find the words that have the same word class as those identified in step 1 immediately before the coordinating conjunction.
  3. Arrange the phrases that belong to the same word class and that were identified in steps 1 and 2 one below the other in a parallel formation.
  4. Ensure that the two phrases arranged in step 3 belong to exactly the same word class (if, for instance, one part comprises “preposition + noun,” then the other part must also comprise “preposition + noun.”). (616)

An example of a graphic representation from Appendix A of their article is here:

My reservation about the study is that they use additive conjunctions works well, but I am not sure how they would represent the excluding or as in “live free or die,” nor am I sure how to represent “but”. These reservations aside, I think the article supports teacher intuition about the importance of graphical display in instruction. I have tried this kind of representation in my writing classes, but I have not done it as much in reading classes. Now, I see that it could be equally useful.

Suzuki, A, Sato, T, & Awazu, S. (2008). Graphic display of linguistic information in English as a foreign language reading. TESOL Quarterly, 42, 591- 616.

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