Reading development at the text level: an investigation of surprisal and embedding-based text similarity effects on eye-movements in Chinese early readers
This paper describes the use of semantic similarity measures based on distributed representations of words, sentences, and paragraphs (so-called“embeddings”) to assess the impact of supra-lexical factors on eye movement data from early readers of Chinese. In addition, we used a corpus-based measure of surprisal to assess the impact of local word predictability. Eye movement data from 56 Chinese students were collected (a) in the students’ 4th grade and (b) one year later while they were in 5th grade. Results indicated that surprisal and some text similarity measures have a significant impact on the moment-to-moment processing of words in reading. The paper presents an easy-to-use set of tools for linking the low-level aspects of fixation durations to a hierarchy of sentence-level and paragraph-level features that can be computed automatically. The study is the first attempt, as far as we are aware, to track the developmental trajectory of these influences in developing readers across a range of reading abilities. The similarity-based measures described here can be used (a) to provide a measure of reader sensitivity to sentence and paragraph cohesion and (b) to assess specific texts for their suitability for readers of different reading ability levels.
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