Syntactic competence and reading ability in children

Shlomo Bentin*, Avital Deutsch, Isabelle Y. Liberman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The effect of syntactic context on auditory word identification and on the ability to detect and correct syntactic errors in speech was examined in severely reading disabled children and in good and poor readers selected from the normal distribution of fourth graders. The poor readers were handicapped when correct reading required analysis of the sentence context. However, their phonological decoding ability was intact. Identification of words was less affected by syntactic context in the severely disabled readers than in either the good or poor readers. Moreover, the disabled readers were inferior to good readers in judging the syntactical integrity of spoken sentences and in their ability to correct the syntactically aberrant sentences. Poor readers were similar to good readers in the identification and judgement tasks, but inferior in the correction task. The results suggest that the severely disabled readers were inferior to both good and poor readers in syntactic awareness, and in ability to use syntactic rules, while poor readers were equal to good readers in syntactic awareness but were relatively impaired in using syntactic knowledge productively.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)147-172
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1990

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Israel Foundations Trustees to Shlomo Bentin. lsabelle Liberman was supported in part by the National Institute of Child Health and by Human Development Grant HD-01994 to Haskins Laboratories. The useful comments of Anne Fowler are much appreciated. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the principals and teachers of the integrative schools “Luria” and “Stoane” in Jerusalem and of the School for Remediation Teaching in Hertzelia, Israel. Any correspondence and request for reprints should be sent to Shlomo Bentin, Department of Neurosciences M-008, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093.


Dive into the research topics of 'Syntactic competence and reading ability in children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this