1. Introduction 11
1. Introduction This study originates from the practical need that is common to all those who have to face the problem of creating reading-comprehen- sion language tests: the choice of the texts that are suited to a given level of linguistic competence and the construction of equally suitable tasks to assess the candidates’ comprehension of the texts. The background and purpose of this study will be illustrated in section 1.1, the theoretical and methodological framework adopted will be sketched out briefly in section 1.2 and an outline of the contents will be given in section 1.3. 1.1 Background and Purpose of this Study This study brings together two areas of research in an investigation of text complexity and English-language test difficulty. One aspect of this study is more strictly linguistic and is related to attempts in linguistics – most importantly text-linguistics, functional linguistics and cognitive linguistics – to define and characterise the notion of ‘text complexity’. The other aspect is related to research into the notions of ‘test difficulty’ and ‘task difficulty’ carried out in the field normally called applied linguistics and particularly in research on language testing. In order to investigate these phenomena, a corpus made up of twenty-five reading comprehension tests was designed and analysed. The tests in this 10,613-word long corpus offer the material for analyses of text complexity and of test difficulty. Specifically, they consist of an input text and of one or more accompanying tasks and have been elaborated by their authors to assess the reading...
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