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High School Students' Comprehension Strategies for Reading Latin Literature Open Access

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The purpose of this study is to understand the reading comprehension strategies of secondary Latin students reading authentic Latin literature, and to use Alderson’s (1984) hypotheses to investigate the effect that Latin language proficiency and English (L1) reading comprehension ability contribute to Latin (L2) reading comprehension ability. Additionally, this study aims to fill a gap in the literature, by using empirical methodology to investigate Latin reading comprehension. This study is the first to examine Latin students’ reported frequency of Latin reading strategies, and to investigate the relationships between Latin and English reading strategy usage and reading comprehension ability. Four theories provide a framework: (1) interactive processing; (2) language interdependence hypothesis; (3) language threshold hypothesis; and (4) cross-linguistic influence. The exploratory sequential mixed-methods design consisted of a qualitative phase followed by a quantitative phase. During the qualitative phase, twelve advanced high school students participated in a semistructured group interview about their Latin reading strategy usage. The data from the semistructured interviews were used to develop a survey instrument, the interactive processing strategy inventory (IPSI) for Latin. Afterwards, 143 advanced high school Latin students participated in the quantitative phase of the study, in which they completed four instruments: an English reading comprehension assessment, the interactive processing strategy inventory (IPSI) for English, a Latin reading comprehension assessment, and the interactive processing strategy inventory (IPSI) for Latin. Results showed significant differences between Latin and English strategy usage. The high Latin reading group used a wide variety of both bottom-up and top-down reading strategies more frequently than the middle and low Latin reading groups. There were also high positive correlations between Latin language proficiency and Latin reading comprehension, and English reading comprehension and Latin reading comprehension. Four major findings of the study offer support for each theory from the framework: (1) Latin students overall demonstrated a preference for bottom-up strategies when reading Latin; (2) Latin students demonstrated limited transfer of English (L1) top-down strategies; (3) low Latin language proficiency shortcircuited English (L1) strategy transfer; and (4) negative English syntactic transfer hindered Latin reading comprehension. The study concludes with specific pedagogical recommendations to improve Latin reading comprehension, including strategy-based instructional material.

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