Analysis of learning texts in the context of literacy acquisition Cover Image

Analysis of learning texts in the context of literacy acquisition

Author(s): Helin Puksand, Krista Kerge
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus
Keywords: lexis of learning text; lexical richness; loan words with the foreign structure; nominal versus verbal style; readability; text difficulty; lexical density; fast and slow text; methodological problems of genre research; LSP

Summary/Abstract: On the background of literacy theory (e.g. Gee 2004, 2008), as well as research on the Estonian learning media (e.g. Mikk 2000) and genres (Kerge, Pajupuu 2010 on 18 written and 10 oral genres), this article deals with the text parameters of four textbooks (music for grades 4 and 7, plus history for grades 5 and 6). Learning texts were studied for their read­ability, exactness, and lexical parameters: (1) text difficulty measured with Lix (Björnsson 1968), (2) nominality (proportion of nouns) and (3) lexical density measured by the Ure-formula (see Halliday 1989, 1994 for both); (4) formality index F pointing to the level of ambiguity and thus to wording exactness (Heylighen and Dewaele 2002 formula); (5) lexical richness (Uber-index; see Vermeer 2000), and (6) lexical qualities (representation of special terms, percentage of loan words of foreign structure, recurrence of lexemes). For index Lix and its factors, 11 more textbooks of natural studies, mother tongue, and history for grades 4–6 were compared (based on Puksand 2003) to those mentioned above. Some visual observations were made to interpret the statistical data in the light of legibility (e.g. lay-out features such as text, paragraph and line length, use of illustrations, etc. Quantitative results put texts situated in learning process of the age group from 10 to 13 years on the continuous scales of Estonian genres in general. This made it possible to evaluate the appropriateness of the text for the relevant age group: there were problems with two recent textbooks (history for grade 5 and music for grade 7) showing a level higher than the median of the Estonian adult written genres. On the other hand, one of the difficult textbooks was quite easy by its lexis while the other one was extremely hard to understand. As to the layout, both of them seemed appropriate even for those with learning difficulties. The correlations between the parameters made it possible to understand how to address a text in a more suitable for the age manner. For example, formality formula is based on the idea that nouns (referential units) make a text more exact than other parts of speech, but on the other hand, the more nominal units, the denser (and, thus, less understandable) a text is (r=0.946). Writers and editors should provide sentential definitions rather than those in the form of lists, bracketed synonyms, hyponyms, or comments dominating now; they should enrich the text with more clarifications and examples, etc. To this end, a speed index as a quotient of LD per sentence was calculated (see Bloor 2004 on slow and fast texts). It showed that learning texts are faster than any adult genre except job-related electronic correspondence. Though, the text-speed phenomenon should be studied in a qualitative manner, and its measures need to be proved in a much wider range of situated genres. The latter applies to nominality and text difficulty, too (see also Harris and Bakker 1998).

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 57
  • Page Range: 162-217
  • Page Count: 55
  • Language: Estonian