Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 151-167

Sentence comprehension in young adults with developmental dyslexia

  • Rebecca WiseheartAffiliated withUniversity of Florida Email author 
  • , Lori J. P. AltmannAffiliated withUniversity of Florida
  • , Heeyoung ParkAffiliated withUniversity of Florida
  • , Linda J. LombardinoAffiliated withUniversity of Florida

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This study investigated the effects of syntactic complexity on written sentence comprehension in compensated adults with dyslexia. Because working memory (WM) plays a key role in processing complex sentences, and individuals with dyslexia often demonstrate persistent deficits in WM, we hypothesized that individuals with dyslexia would perform more poorly on tasks designed to assess the comprehension of syntactic structures that are especially taxing on WM (e.g., passives, sentences with relative clauses). Compared to their nondyslexic peers, individuals with dyslexia were significantly less accurate and marginally slower on passive sentences. For sentences containing relative clauses, the dyslexic group was also less accurate but did not differ in response times. Covarying WM and word reading in both analyses eliminated group differences showing that syntactic deficits in adults with dyslexia are constrained by both WM and word-reading ability. These findings support previous research showing that syntactic processing deficits are characteristic of dyslexia, even among high-achieving students.


Dyslexia Passives Relative clauses Sentence comprehension Syntactic deficits Working memory