ERIC Number: ED333436
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1990
Reference Count: N/A
Sources of Difficulty in the Processing of Written Language. Report Series 4.3.
Ease of language processing varies with the nature of the language involved. Ordinary spoken language is the easiest kind to produce and understand, while writing is a relatively new development. On thoughtful inspection, the readability of writing has shown itself to be a complex topic requiring insights from many academic disciplines and research techniques that are still not well developed. It would be wrong to conclude that writing is easiest to process when it is most like ordinary spoken language, or that more easily processed writing is "better" than more difficult language. A comparison of a passage from Henry James'"The Ambassadors" with one from Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome" serves to illustrate some differences between written and spoken language. For example, differences in language and culture can hinder a reader's efforts to decipher a written text, as can unclear verbal references, insertion of new information, and negation. A listener's or reader's interest in a piece of language can be heightened through involvement (causing the listener or reader to feel caught up in what is expressed) and detachment (shifting attention from the actor to the object being acted upon). The arrangement and structure of paragraphs affects comprehension. Because writing can serve different purposes, it would be wrong to assign an absolute scale of values to the features that affect message processing. (Nineteen references are attached.) (SG)
Descriptors: Comparative Analysis, Difficulty Level, Higher Education, Language Processing, Literary Criticism, Readability, Reader Text Relationship, Reading Attitudes, Writing (Composition), Written Language
Literature Center, University at Albany, Ed B-9, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222 ($3.00 prepaid; checks payable to the Research Foundation of SUNY).
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC.; Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature, Albany, NY.