Repository logo

The Interplay of Linguistic and Cognitive Factors in Predicting Reading Comprehension: A Case of Primary School Children from the United Kingdom and China



Change log


Chu, Pik Ki Claudia 


Reading is an essential skill in literacy acquisition as it enables one to understand the meaning of written text. Extensive literature has been conducted to understand individual differences in reading comprehension. However, reading comprehension is such a complex process that a critical missing piece in the field is understanding how linguistic and cognitive skills interact and how much they contribute to understanding written text. This thesis expands on previous studies by examining the possible direct and indirect contributions of linguistic and cognitive skills to the reading comprehension abilities of native English and Chinese primary school children. Given the different linguistic features of the English and Chinese writing systems, the variations in the contributions were also compared.

Two studies were carried out. Study 1 examined the role of linguistic (vocabulary, syntactic awareness, and paragraph comprehension) and cognitive (executive functions and metamemory) skills in predicting English reading comprehension in 269 children in the United Kingdom, aged between 9.51 and 11.50. Structural equation modelling and path analyses were run. Vocabulary, syntactic awareness, and paragraph comprehension all predicted English reading comprehension directly. The study found that paragraph comprehension mediated the link between vocabulary and English reading comprehension. In addition, linguistic skills fully mediated the relationship between executive functions and English reading comprehension. Metamemory did not contribute to English reading comprehension neither directly nor indirectly. Study 2 examined the role of the same set of variables in predicting Chinese reading comprehension in 229 children in China, aged between 9.50 to 14.09. Structural equation modelling and path analyses found that vocabulary contributed to Chinese reading comprehension directly and indirectly through paragraph comprehension. Syntactic awareness and paragraph comprehension were also found to directly predict Chinese reading comprehension. Correlational analyses on the subset of the data demonstrated that neither executive functions nor metamemory was significantly correlated with Chinese reading comprehension. The findings are discussed in light of their theoretical and empirical contributions to educational research and practice.





Ellefson, Michelle


Reading Comprehension, Cognitive, Linguistic, English, Chinese


Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge