The Effects of Text Structure on learners’ reading: A multimodal Perspective from eye-tracking

  • The availability of technology has caused communication to morph into a multiplicity of formats. 
  • These texts, even their linguistic part alone, cannot be comprehended without a clear idea of how the other modes are contributing to the meaning of the text.
  • Not only are language teachers drawing on these new textual resources for instruction, but learners are also directly exposed to them through social media sites, websites, chatrooms, online forums, instant messaging, etc.
  • Traditionally, linguistics has been mainly concerned with describing language in terms of its sound system (phonetics and phonology), word structure (morphology), phrase and sentence structure (syntax), and meaning (semantics).
  • Second language acquisition (SLA) and reading theories born from this conception of linguistics view literacy as the mere ability to read and write.
  • Such conception has become obsolete, as it ignores the contexts in which and the reasons why we read and write as well as the changing ways in which we now read and write digitally.
  • To answer questions about texts whose compositional elements fall beyond the traditional scope of language, a multimodal framework is the most suitable as it is an inherently and intrinsically interdisciplinary cooperative enterprise, which attempts to account for meaning in all its appearances, social occasions, and cultural sites.
  • This conceptual framework assumes that representation and communication always draw on a multiplicity of modes, that all modes have been shaped through their cultural, historical, and social uses to realize social functions, and that the meaning realized in one mode is always interwoven with those of other modes co-operating in a text. 
  • The proliferation of texts that combine ‘linguistic’ signs such as written language and non-linguistic signs such as diagrams, photographs, arrows, icons, and charts represents an intriguing area of inquiry in SLA because of its potential to alleviate some of the difficulties learners face while reading English such as deficient knowledge of the writing system, limited vocabulary, insufficient familiarity with grammatical structures, and missing strategies for reading English (Birch, 2007).
  • These changes in second language written input raised the need to question their implication for learners.  

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