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November 2007 - Spoken word frequency counts based on 1.6 million words in American English. Written word frequency constitutes apopular measure of word familiarity, which is highly predictive of word recognition. Far less often, researchers employ spoken frequency counts in their studies. This discrepancy can be attributed most readily to the conspicuous absence of a sizeable spoken frequency count for American English. The present article reports the construction of a 1.6-million-word spoken frequency database derived from the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English. We generated spoken frequency counts for 34,922 words and extracted speaker attributes from the source material to generate relative frequencies of words spoken by each speaker category. We assessthe predictive validity of these counts, and discuss some possible applications outside of word recognition studies. BRM.
November 2007 - Characterization of the affective norms for English words by discrete emotional categories. The Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW) are a commonly used set of 1034 words characterized on the affective dimensions of valence, arousal, and dominance. Traditionally, studies of affect have used stimuli characterized along either affective dimensions or discrete emotional categories, but much current research draws on both of these perspectives. As such, stimuli that have been thoroughly characterized according to both of these approaches are exceptionally useful. In an effort to provide researchers with such a characterization of stimuli, we have collected descriptive data on the ANEW to identify which discrete emotions are elicited by each word in the set. Our data, coupled with previous characterizations of the dimensional aspects of these words, will allow researchers to control for or manipulate stimulus properties in accordance with both dimensional and discrete emotional views, and provide an avenue for further integration of these two perspectives. BRM.
November 2007 - Capturing the effect of a title on multiple levels of comprehension. Researchers have manipulated text comprehension by creating texts that require a title to be understood, butthe source of the comprehension deficit has not been fully examined. We created comprehension quizzes for these texts that measure the surface form, textbase, and situation model. In three experiments, participants read passages with or without a title and then answered quiz questions. Results showed that the absence of a title influenced theaccuracy rate of answering situation model questions more than answering surface form or textbase questions. This suggests that the situation model is the primary source o f difficulty for these texts. These passages and quizzes can beused in future research that requires controlled manipulation and measurement of situation level comprehension. BRM.
November 2007 - Improving early language and literacy skills: differential effects of an oral language versus a phonology with reading intervention. BACKGROUND: This study compares the efficacy of two school-based intervention programmes (Phonology with Reading (P + R) and Oral Language (OL)) for children with poor oral language at school entry. METHODS: Following screening of 960 children, 152 children (mean age 4;09) were selected from 19 schools on the basis of poor vocabulary and verbal reasoning skills and randomly allocated to either the P + R programme or the OL programme. Both groups of children received 20 weeks of daily intervention alternating between small group and individual sessions, delivered by trained teaching assistants. Children in the P + R group received training in letter-sound knowledge, phonological awareness and book level reading skills. Children in the OL group received instruction in vocabulary, comprehension, inference generation and narrative skills. The children's progress was monitored at four time points: pre-, mid- and post-intervention, and after a 5-month delay, using measures of literacy, language and phonological awareness. RESULTS: The data are clustered (children within schools) and robust confidence intervals are reported. At the end of the 20-week intervention programme, children in the P + R group showed an advantage over the OL group on literacy and phonological measures, while children in the OL group showed an advantage over the P + R group on measures of vocabulary and grammatical skills. These gains were maintained over a 5-month period. CONCLUSIONS: Intervention programmes designed to develop oral language skills can be delivered successfully by trained teaching assistants to children at school entry. Training using P + R fostered decoding ability whereas the OL programme improved vocabulary and grammatical skills that are foundations for reading comprehension. However, at the end of the intervention, more than 50% of at-risk children remain in need of literacy support. JCPP.