Effects of sentence types on reading in bilinguals and monolinguals: Evidence from eye-tracking

Effects of sentence types on reading in bilinguals and monolinguals: Evidence from eye-tracking

First Author: Guoqin Ding -- Utah State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Kathleen A. J. Mohr; Ronald B. Gillam; Stephanie Juth; Carla I. Orellana; Allison Hancock; Rebekah Wada
Keywords: Eye movements, Bilingualism, cognitive processes, Reading comprehension, Chinese children
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
Because reading comprehension is influenced by language development and sentence complexity, more cognitive effort is expected in reading noncanonical texts, and among bilinguals. Prior reading research using eye-tracking associates greater cognitive load with longer fixations and shorter saccades. We hypothesized that bilinguals would present longer total fixation duration (FD) and more saccade counts (SC) when reading noncanonical texts.
Method
Sixteen English monolingual and 16 Chinese-English bilingual children matched by age were assigned two reading tasks with four passages (featuring predominantly canonical or predominantly noncanonical sentences). Participants completed a battery of English tests (including WRMT-III Word Identification and Passage Comprehension) before the online reading task, which was monitored with SMI eye-tracker and assessed with multiple-choice questions. An independent samples t-test showed no difference between groups for the behavioral measures. Eye-movement measures were the dependent variables and text type and participant group were the independent variables in multiple regression models.
Results
Participant group, but not text type, was the significant predictor for each eye-movement measure. Bilinguals presented less FD and lower SC for canonical and noncanonical text types than monolinguals.
Conclusions
No difference in text types indicates that the children processed canonical and noncanonical sentences similarly for the short passages used in this task. Less FD and lower SC in bilinguals was not expected. Different eye-tracking patterns between groups typically suggest different cognitive processes in reading. It seems that the bilinguals’ proficiency facilitated their reading and demonstrated cognitive benefits for processing these sentence types.