Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

Von Humpfhörnern und Flundodilen : Pseudo-Lexikonartikel zum Testen der rezeptiven Schwierigkeit grammatischer Strukturen

Peyer, Elisabeth ; Kaiser, Irmtraud

In: Bulletin VALS-ASLA, 2010, vol. 91, p. 47-66

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    This paper presents an overview of the results of two Ph.D. theses (Kaiser, 2009; Peyer, 2009) developed within the framework of the research project "The psycholinguistics of a grammar for reading German", which has been carried out at the University of Fribourg / Freiburg (CH). The project investigates Italian and French students' grammatical problems while reading in German as a foreign language. Vocabulary / lexis has been centre stage in research on reading German as a foreign language, the role of grammar / syntax, however, has hardly been researched to date. To achieve this aim, we worked with especially developed experimental designs. The main research instrument was a reading test which consisted of encyclopaedia articles on imaginary animals. By way of these articles seven grammatical structures of German were tested for their receptive difficulty. We worked with parallel texts with the same content but different grammatical structures. The particular focus was on grammatical structures that are traditionally deemed to be 'difficult' for learners of German as a second / foreign language. This general opinion, however, is based on teachers' experience and/or production evidence and not on a systematic investigation of comprehension processes. The reading test was taken by more than 500 subjects. Further research instruments were a German placement test as well as a self-evaluation of the students' competences of reading in other foreign languages. In addition to that, oral translation exercises into the L1 of the participants were carried out which helped to gain further insight into the process of reading comprehension. The triangulation of methods allowed fine-grained insights into the possible impediments particular structures represent for in-depth comprehension of German texts. It informs us both on the product and on the process of reading comprehension in German by combining quantitative and qualitative data.