1.1 Background of the Study
In the learning and teaching of English reading in China, it has long beenacknowledged that the effect of Chinese on English reading has been commonplace.The significance of this cross-linguistic influence, also known as language transfer,however, has yet been a controversial one. With a series of empirical studies beingundertaken, linguists and researchers have found that poor English readingperformance is largely due to poor English proficiency or a lack of certain Chinesereading abilities, hence attention is paid to a question --- is L2 reading a languageproblem or a reading problem (Alderson, 1984)? The further interpretation of thisquestion is whether reading in a L2 is a function of the transfer of L2 languageproficiency or the transfer of Ll reading abilities. The first possibility is supported bythe Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis (or the short-circuit hypothesis), which states thata level of L2 linguistic proficiency must first be achieved so as to read effectively inthe L2. The second possibility is backed by the Linguistic InterdependenceHypothesis (or the reading universal hypothesis), which posits that readingperformance in the L2 is largely shared with reading abilities in the L1. Although theextent to which reading in a L2 is a function of the transfer of L2 languageproficiency or the transfer of Ll reading abilities has been a topic of debate for sometime (Clarke, 1979; Alderson, 1984; Carrell, 1991; Bernhardt & Kamil, 1995; Taillefer,1996; Pichette & Segalowitz, 2003), few studies have so far come up with ampleevidence to back up either of the above mentioned two hypotheses.
1.2 Significance of the Research
The significance of this study and questions proposed is in view of the fact thatthere are few studies which have supported the Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis (LTH)and the Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis (LIH) at the same time. Although therelationship among native language reading ability, second language proficiency andsecond language reading ability has aroused many linguists' interest, it has just begunin China. Presently, Wu Shiyu and Wang Tongshun (2005, 2006), and Bao Gui (2008)have been studying this issue.Despite many achievements, there are still some disadvantages among them. Forone thing, the operational definition of second language proficiency level in moststudies is not general and accurate. Some investigators measured the testees’ secondlanguage proficiency according to their grades or levels of courses they were learning(Clarke, 1978, 1980; Hudson, 1982; Carrell, 1988, 1991; Davis & Bistodeau, 1993;Raymond, 1993; Bernhardt & Kamil, 1995; Schoonen, Hulstijn & Bossers, 1998).Furthermore, some researchers took their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar astheir second language proficiency (Nation & Coady, 1988; Bossers 1992; Ruddell,1994; Brisbois, 1995; Taillefer, 1996; Lee & Shallert, 1997; Wu Shiyu & WangTongshun, 2005, 2006). Second, there are also some problems with respect to theoperational definition of native language reading ability, e.g., Bernhardt and Kamil(1995) used the testees' scores in the entrance examination to represent their nativelanguage reading ability, yet the study was conducted one or two years later whentheir native language reading ability was different.
CHAPTER TWOLITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Theories Concerning Reading
As Carrell (1988) states, the most important purpose of learning a foreignlanguage is reading. However, what is reading? The understandings of reading havechanged with time going by. Before the in-depth research of reading, it is important tohave a brief review of the definitions of reading.In early works, reading was regarded as a rather passive or receptive decodingprocess of the printed letters and words. According to Flesch (1955), reading meansgetting meaning from certain combination of letters. Later, reading was viewed as aprocess of responding, as