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196 LANGUAGE, VOLUME 66, NUMBER 1 (1990) sterdam: Rodopi, Paper DfI. 60.00. 1988. Pp. 193. In this study, Lankamp addresses the problems Dutch medical students face in comprehending medical texts written in English. Two major research questions are (1) whether 'common -language' English terms are easier to understand than their more specialized medical counterparts (e.g. kidney X-ray vs. pyelogram). and (2) whether Dutch-English cognates aid in comprehension of English medical texts by Dutch readers. This study, one of the first of its kind carried out in the Netherlands, approaches these questions from two distinct perspectives —psycholinguistic and practical. Psycholinguistically . this study posits various hypotheses on the nature of reading comprehension (both Ll and L2) and language transfer . Practically, L's research offers an insight into medical education in the Netherlands and how it can be improved to give Dutch medical students a better grasp of English medical texts. Ch. 2 sets the stage for the experiment by offering a definition of specialist medical language and describing how it differs from common medical language with respect to such linguistic variables as lexicon, morphology, discourse, and register. The judgments of medical experts familiar with the medical-language register are used to distinguish specialist terms (such as pyelogram ) from common terms (such as kidney X-ray) in the texts used in the experiments. Ch. 3 deals with the psycholinguistic theory of reading comprehension, specifically the effect of medical terms, both specialist and common , on text understanding. L proposes a model of lexical analysis which consists of two distinct yet interactive components—the mental lexicon and the conceptual system. In order to increase one's level of reading comprehension, it is necessary not only to extend the number of entries in the mental lexicon, but also to augment conceptual familiarity. If only one of these components is affected, no tangible increase in comprehension will be achieved. As a result of this duality of lexical analysis, L hypothesizes that, while the inclusion of specialist medical terms in a text will indeed have a significant effect on the reading comprehension of medical experts vs. nonexperts, rewriting these specialist terms into common language will have no effect, since the terms address only the mental lexicon, not conceptual knowledge. Ch. 4 discusses the experiment which tests the hypotheses of Ch. 3. Four groups of students —4th-year medical, 2nd-year health sciences , 4th-year English, and other (mainly) Dutch students—were asked to read a medical text in which a number of specialist terms had been rewritten into everyday terms (e.g. urography vs. an imaging ofthe urinary tract). They were then given a quiz consisting of true-false statements involving both specialist and rewritten items. As expected, the medical students achieved higher scores in general; there was no significant difference, however, between the groups' scores on the specialist terms as opposed to the rewritten terms. This disparity supports L's hypothesis that rewritten items may trigger the mental lexicon but not the conceptual system, so that overall reading comprehension will not be affected. Thus, knowledge of English alone (i.e. 'bare' vocabulary knowledge) is not sufficient to improve understanding of English medical texts; conceptual background is also needed. As a result, L suggests, an integration of English medical terms and general medical knowledge is necessary to improve Dutch students ' comprehension of English medical texts. In the next two chapters L proposes and tests the hypothesis that medically knowledgeable Dutch readers are better able to understand English medical terms which have corresponding Dutch cognates, suggesting that using a higher percentage of cognates in texts can aid in reading comprehension. However, when Dutch medical experts were given a choice between cognate medical terms and language-specific terms, they showed no clear preference, choosing the cognates only about half the time. L warns that the comprehension of medical texts is not enhanced by using more common language -specific terms; some standardization, including internationally-accepted cognate forms, might be a solution for better comprehension. In this straightforward and thorough study, Lankamp successfully applies psycholinguistic theories of reading comprehension to the practical application of improving Dutch medical students' understanding of medical texts in English . He does this by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 196-197
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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