Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics
Emil Holms Kanal 2
2300 København S
Research areas: Reading development and psycholinguistics
Reading ability draws on two fundamental skills: 1) The ability to recognise words based on knowledge of the letters and their sounds; and 2) general language comprehension ability, for example vocabulary, sentence comprehension and the ability to make inferences. My research concerns several subfields within these two areas:
- Sentence comprehension: To understand a sentence, you need to extract information from the word order: "John hits Mary” means something different to “Mary hits John”. Some sentence structures, however, can be more difficult to understand, for example passive sentences like “John was hit by Mary”, depending on the context. I have been involved in investigating the comprehension of long-distance dependencies (Poulsen, 2008) and the role of context in comprehension of OVS sentences (Burholt, Engberg-Petersen & Poulsen, in press; Thomsen & Poulsen, 2015). It appears that there are some individual differences in how well people comprehend such non-canonical sentences. For example, children appear to find them more difficult than adults. We have found that there is a correlation between how well grade 5 students understand such sentences and their reading comprehension (Poulsen & Gravgaard, 2016; Poulsen, Nielsen & Christensen, 2022).
- The correlation between lexical processing and reading: There is well-established correlation between how fast children (and adults) name letters, numbers and pictures, on the one hand, and how accurately and fast they read. The cause of the correlation is, however, at present not fully understood, probably because it is multi-componential. We have investigated some of the possible components longitudinally (Juul, Poulsen & Elbro, 2014; Poulsen, Juul & Elbro, 2015) and we have shown how the type of items to be named is important for whether naming correlates with word reading or reading comprehension Poulsen & Elbro (2012).
- Identification of reading difficulties: I was involved in developing a web-based test for identification of reading difficulties for the Danish Ministry of Education. The project is unique in that the same test is used from Grade 3 to university level.
- Computer-assisted instruction in early reading instruction: As tablets become common in the early grades, the opportunities for using interactive teaching materials in general education are becoming practically viable. We have developed and tested an app to supplement early instruction. The self-explanatory app introduces and exercises knowledge of letters, their sounds and the concept of phonemes, and it guides the students through reading short, regular words. The project was funded by the Danish Ministry of Education.
I teach Linguistics I, Language and Psychology II and Statistics in the BA study programme in Audiologopedics. At irregular intervals I teach specialisation courses in Audiologopedic data interpretation and Project design at the MA programme in Audiologopedics.
I supervise within the fields of reading, psycholinguistics and grammatically oriented logopedics.