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Reassessment of sentence combining and decombining: The effects of sentence manipulation activities on reading comprehension

Hansol Lee (School of Education, University of California, Irvine, California, USA)
Jang Ho Lee (Department of English Education, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of sentence combining (SC) and sentence decombining (SD) activities on fostering reading comprehension. As a widely used writing activity for enhancing syntactic fluency in English Language Arts (ELA) classes, SC requires learners to combine short sentences into longer and more complex sentences, while SD requires learners to break down a long sentence into the shortest grammatically allowable sentences.


This study assessed the effects of SD and SC in comparison with a control group on the improvement of reading comprehension ability among college students learning English as their second language (L2) in the context of a six-week English language learning program. Participants with overall intermediate English language proficiency were randomly assigned to one of three different conditions: SC, SD and control. Also, a subset of the participants was interviewed after the intervention.


The results showed that SD was more effective than SC or control condition in enhancing syntactic knowledge and reading comprehension, as measured by a standardized English proficiency test. Data obtained from post-study interviews further suggested that only SD was perceived by the participants as having enhanced their reading comprehension.


The present study provides a valuable addition to a body of research on sentence manipulation activities in ELA classes. For those L2 learners who have passed a pre-intermediate threshold level, SD appears to be more beneficial than SC in enhancing syntactic knowledge, which, in turn, appears to contribute to better reading comprehension.



Lee, H. and Lee, J.H. (2017), "Reassessment of sentence combining and decombining: The effects of sentence manipulation activities on reading comprehension", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 55-71.



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