Cognitive and metalinguistic precursors of emergent literacy skills: A reexamination of the specific roles played by syntactic awareness and phonological awareness in phonological decoding, decontextualized word identification, and reading comprehension
Tunmer, Nesdale, and Herriman, (1988) suggested that phonological and syntactic awareness make independent contributions to reading sub-skills. They also suggested that these relationships were mediated by phonological decoding and provided initial support for these assertions using path modeling procedures. Blackmore and Pratt (1997) questioned Tunmer's ideas about the roles played by these constructs and asserted that they were subsumed by a larger, unitary construct, metalinguistic awareness. Using hierarchical regression procedures, these investigators found that neither variable contributed unique variance to measures of reading skill when the other was controlled. Torok (2002) further evaluated results obtained by both sets of researchers while addressing certain methodological questions raised in their studies. Torok (2002) obtained support for Tunmer's assertions that phonological and syntactic awareness made independent contributions to reading sub-skills. She also found that other cognitive and linguistic factors, not controlled for in the previous studies, made significant contributions to reading sub-skills.
The current study reexamines these relationships using structural equation modeling to control for measurement error. Using the sample Torok (2002) initially used, eleven structural equation models were created to test variants of each set of the aforementioned theoretical assumptions. Comparable model fit was found for both Tunmer et al.'s and Blackmore and Pratt's theories, suggesting that Tunmer et al.'s assumptions regarding phonological and syntactic awareness as separate constructs were viable. Torok's (2002) modifications also produced acceptable model fit, suggesting again, that there are other cognitive and linguistic factors that should be considered when examining relationships between phonological and syntactic awareness and literacy skills. Relationships between metalinguistic awareness as a unitary construct and domain-general analytic ability were also validated and the results suggested that these variables may be reciprocally related. Finally, the results indicated that metalinguistic awareness might be a stronger predictor of general academic ability than previously thought.
0620: Developmental psychology
0279: Language arts