The Role of Working Memory in the Comprehension of Relative Clauses by Chinese Dyslexic Children


  • Cecilia Yuet Hung Chan City University of Hong Kong


Chinese dyslexia, Working memory, sentence comprehension, relative clauses


Previous psycholinguistic studies on the processing of relative clauses delineate the importance of working memory in sentence comprehension. This study further investigates the role of working memory in the comprehension of Chinese relative clauses by dyslexic children who have reading and writing difficulties in Chinese. In this study, a computerized sentence listening and reading comprehension test was designed to assess to what extent dyslexic children comprehend Chinese sentences consisting of three types of relative clauses. The results of the test indicate that dyslexic children were significantly worse that their non-dyslexic counterparts with comparable educational level, age and IQ in both listening and reading comprehension of relative clauses. Dyslexic children had great difficulty in comprehending the subject-extracted relative clauses which involve heavy working memory load in restructuring the word order for comprehension. The findings of the study highlight the importance of working memory in sentence comprehension by dyslexic children, and shed light on the enhancement of sentence comprehension of dyslexic children. It is proposed that language games and computerized language tasks can be used for training the working memory of dyslexic children, which in turn faciliates the sentence comprehension that is essential for text comprehension.

Author Biography

Cecilia Yuet Hung Chan, City University of Hong Kong

Associate Professor

Dept of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics


Chan, D., Ho, C., Tsang, S.-M., Lee, S.-H., & Chung, K., “Exploring the Reading–Writing Connection in Chinese Children with Dyslexia in Hong Kongâ€, Reading and Writing, vol. 19, no.6, pp.543-561, 2006.

Chik, P. P. M., Ho, C. S. H., Yeung, P. S., Wong, Y. K., Chan, D. W. O., Chung, K. K. H. & Lo, L. Y., “Contribution of Discourse and Morphosyntax Skills to Reading Comprehension in Chinese Dyslexic and Typically Developing Childrenâ€, Annals of, pp.1-18, 2010.

Chik, P. P. M., Ho, C. S. H., Yeung, P. S., Chan, D. W. O., Chung, K. K. H., Luan, H., Lo, L. Y. & Lau, W. S. Y., “Syntactic Skills in Sentence Reading Comprehension among Chinese Elementary School Childrenâ€, Reading and Writing, vol. 24, pp. 1-21, 2011.

Chung, K. K. H. & Ho, C. S.-H., “Second Language Learning Difficulties in Chinese Children with Dyslexia: What are the Reading-Related Cognitive Skills that Contribute to English and Chinese Word Reading?â€, Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 43, pp.195-211, 2010.

Hsiao, F. & Gibson, E., “Processing Relative Clauses in Chineseâ€,Cognition, vol. 90, no.1,pp. 3-27, 2003.

Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D.W.-O., Tsang, S.-M, Lee, S.-H., “The Cognitive Profile and Multiple-Deficit Hypothesis in Chinese Developmental Dyslexiaâ€, Developmental Psychology, vol.38, pp.543-553, 2002.

Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D.W.-O., Lee, S.-H. Tsang, S.-M, Luan, V. H., “Cognitive Profiling and Preliminary Subtyping in Chinese Developmental Dyslexiaâ€, Cognition, vol. 91, pp.43-75, 2004.

Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W., Tsang, S.-M, Lee, S-H, Chung, K. K. H., “Word leaning deficit among Chinese dyslexic childrenâ€, Journal of child language, vol.33, pp. 145-161, 2006.

Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W., Chung, K. K. H., Lee, S.-H., Tsang, S.-M.,“In Search of Subtypes of Chinese Developmental Dyslexiaâ€, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol.97, pp. 61-83, 2007.

Leong, C., Hau, K., Tse, S., & Loh, K., “Component Skills of Text Comprehension in Less Competent Chinese Comprehendersâ€, Annals of Dyslexia, vol. 57, no.1, pp. 75-97, 2007.

Lin, C. J. C. & Bever, T. G., “Subject Preference in the Processing of Relative Clauses in Chineseâ€, In D. Baumer, D. Montero & M. Scanlon (Eds.), Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics , Somerville, M.A.-Cascadilla Proceedings Project, pp. 254-260, 2006.

Pickering, S. J., “Working Memory in Dyslexia, In T. P. Alloway & S. E. Gathercole (Eds.),Working Memory and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Hove; New York-Psychology Press, 2006.

Raven, J. C., Standard Progressive Matrices (Kit). London-Pearson Assessment, UK, 2006.

Reilly, J., “The Speech and Language therapistâ€, In P. Thomson & P. Gilchrist (Eds.), Dyslexia: A Multidisciplinary Approach, London-Chapman & Hall, UK, 1997.

Young, P. & Tyre, C., Dyslexia or Illiteracy?: Realizing the Right to Read, Milton Keynes Philadelphia-Open University Press, USA, 1983.




How to Cite

Chan, C. Y. H. (2014). The Role of Working Memory in the Comprehension of Relative Clauses by Chinese Dyslexic Children. Asian Journal of Education and E-Learning, 2(3). Retrieved from