Skip to main content

Exploring literal and inferential reading comprehension among L2 adolescent learners: the roles of working memory capacity, syllogistic inference, and L2 linguistic knowledge

Abstract

Adopting a cognitive perspective, this study examined roles of working memory capacity (WMC), first language (L1) syllogistic inferencing, and second language (L2) linguistic knowledge on literal and inferential understanding of L2 reading comprehension in adolescent L2 learners. Participants were 193 Korean ninth-grade learners of English. The results indicated that L2 linguistic knowledge had a paramount role in explaining literal and inferential understanding of L2 reading. Results also showed that greater WMC facilitated L2 literal reading comprehension for L2 learners with lower L2 linguistic knowledge. Better L1 syllogistic inferencing skills facilitated L2 inferential reading comprehension for L2 learners with lower WMC and lower L2 linguistic knowledge. In addition, WMC had indirect impacts on L2 reading comprehension primarily through L2 linguistic knowledge, which indicates that WMC may lead to better L2 reading comprehension, but only when learners also have greater L2 linguistic knowledge. Overall, this study suggests the different roles of cognitive resources on L2 reading comprehension depending on reader characteristics and reading subdomains and highlight the importance of examining how cognitive resources influence L2 reading comprehension.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

Notes

  1. L2 was used to refer to a language learned other than a mother tongue. Reading and reading comprehension were interchangeably used.

  2. The current study did not include the listening comprehension section because it focused on reading comprehension.

  3. One reviewer asked whether the correlation between L2 linguistic knowledge and L2 reading comprehension for literal items (r = .84) was significantly higher than that between L2 linguistic knowledge and L2 reading comprehension for inferential items (r = .79). The difference in the magnitude of these two correlations was tested using Williams’ t-test (1959) implemented in the cocor R package (Diedenhofen & Musch, 2015). The William’s t-test allows for comparing two correlations estimated from the same sample with one variable in common. The results of the Williams’ t-test indicated that the difference between the two correlations was significant (t = 2.633, df = 190, p < .01). This result potentially suggests that the two types of L2 reading comprehension items (literal vs. inferential) were different in terms of their relationships with L2 linguistic knowledge.

References

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by Educational Testing Service (ETS) under a Committee of Examiners and the Test of English as a Foreign Language Young Students research grant. ETS does not discount or endorse the methodology, results, implications, or opinions presented by the researcher. This work was partially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI Grant Number 20K13119.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Minkyung Kim.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 584 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kim, M. Exploring literal and inferential reading comprehension among L2 adolescent learners: the roles of working memory capacity, syllogistic inference, and L2 linguistic knowledge. Read Writ (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-022-10320-3

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-022-10320-3

Keywords

  • Second language reading comprehension
  • Working memory capacity
  • Syllogistic inferencing
  • Linguistic knowledge