Measures and References: Syntax

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Numerous measures exist to gain a full picture of a student's learning strengths and challenges. Following are examples of measures used to assess this Learner Factor. These measures should be administered and interpreted by experienced professionals.

Measures of syntactic complexity (Beers & Nagy, 2007): Student writing samples are coded to identify how many words per clause and clauses per T-units (sentences) students use.

Wiig Criterion Referenced Inventory of Language (Wiig, 1990): Students' oral language is assessed through specific probes designed to assess their syntactic complexity and other metalinguistic skills.


Abrahamsen, E. P., & Shelton, K. C. (1989). Reading comprehension in adolescents with learning disabilities: Semantic and syntactic effects. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22(9), 569-572.

Beers, S. F., & Nagy, W. E. (2007). Syntactic complexity as a predictor of adolescent writing quality: Which measures?

Which genre?. Reading and Writing, 22(2), 185-200.

Beers, S. F., & Nagy, W. E. (2011). Writing development in four genres from grades three to seven: Syntactic complexity and genre differentiation._ Reading and Writing, 24_(2), 183-202.

Duin, A. H., & Graves, M. F. (1987). Intensive vocabulary instruction as a prewriting technique. Reading Research Quarterly, 22(3), 311-330.

Farah, M. J., Shera, D. M., Savage, J. H., Betancourt, L., Giannetta, J. M., Brodsky, N., Malmud, E.K., Hurt, H. (2006). Childhood poverty: Specific associations with neurocognitive development. Brain Research, 1110, 166-174.

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2013). Background knowledge: The overlooked factor in reading comprehension. New York: McGraw Hill Networks.

Klauda, S. L., & Guthrie, J. T. (2008). Relationships of three components of reading fluency to reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2), 310-321.

Lee, C.D., & Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the disciplines: The challenges of adolescent literacy. New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Loban, W., & National Council of Teachers of English, U. I. (1976). Language Development: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve._ NCTE Committee on Research Report No. 18_.

Neville, D., & Searls, E. (1985). The effect of sentence-combining and kernel-identification training on the syntactic component of reading comprehension. Research in the Teaching of English, 19(1), 37-61.

Nippold, M. A. (1993). Developmental markers in adolescent language: Syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 24(1), 21-28.

Nippold M. A. (2017). Reading comprehension deficits in adolescents: Addressing underlying language abilities. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 48(2), 125-131. doi:10.1044/2016_LSHSS-16-0048

Nippold, M. A., Vigeland, L. M., & Frantz-Kaspar, M. W. (2017). Metacognitive verb production in adolescents: The link to complex syntax. Clinical linguistics & phonetics, 31(10), 761-776.

Nippold, M.A., Hesketh, L.J., Duthie, J.K., Mansfield, T.C. (2005). Conversational versus expository discourse: A study of syntactic development in children, adolescents, and adults. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing, 48(5), 1048-1064.

Norbury, C. F. (2004). Factors supporting idiom comprehension in children with communication disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47(5), 1179-1193.

Pooresmaeil, E., Mohamadi, R., Ghorbani, A., & Kamali, M. (2019). The relationship between comprehension of syntax and reading comprehension in cochlear implanted and hearing children. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 121, 114-119

Reynolds, D. W. (2005). Linguistic correlates of second language literacy development: Evidence from middle-grade learner essays. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14(1), 19-45.

Santi, A., & Grodzinsky, Y. (2007). Working memory and syntax interact in Broca's area. Neuroimage, 37(1), 8-17.

Tai, H. Y. (2015). Writing development in syntactic complexity, accuracy and fluency in a content and language integrated learning class. International Journal of Language and Linguistics, 2(3), 149-156.

Wiig, E. H. (1990). Wiig CRIL: Wiig criterion referenced inventory of language. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corp., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.