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Scholary Articles

Papers and research pertaining to learning Chinese or a L2.

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Alphabetic Readers Quickly Acquire Orthographic Structure in Learning to Read Chinese

Abstract: This study aimed to explore how alphabetic readers learn to read Chinese. First-year Chinese beginning learners who are skilled English readers were tested for their sensitivity to the visual-orthographic structures of Chinese characters. The study also explored the effect of the frequency of the characters in their curriculum on performance of a lexical decision and naming task. The students' linguistic knowledge about the characters was also tested. Results showed that the beginning learners were sensitive to the structural complexity of characters, they accepted simple characters more quickly and more accurately than compound characters, and they responded faster and more accurately to high-frequency than to low-frequency characters. Sensitivity to the structural composition of the character was also revealed: The learners rejected noncharacters containing illegal radical forms faster and more accurately than those containing legal radical forms in illegal positions, which in turn were rejected faster and more accurately than those containing legal radical forms in legal positions. A significant frequency effect was also found in the naming task, though the effect of structural complexity was not significant. These results suggest that perceptual learning plays an important role in early nonalphabetic learning by alphabetic readers. Both cross-writing system differences and second-language status may have an impact on such learning.

The role of radical awareness in Chinese-as-a-second-language learners’ Chinese character reading development

Abstract: In this paper, the role of radical awareness in Chinese character reading development among young Chinese-as-a-second-language (CSL) learners is evaluated in terms of a structural property of the writing system: the distribution of elementary, one-radical (i.e. one-element) simple characters as against majority, multi-radical compound characters. Radical awareness, that is, sensitivity to and use of linguistic information contained in compound characters’ constituent components (radicals), is known to facilitate character reading, but the specific structural property just mentioned, the distribution of simple and compound characters, has not been adequately investigated. In this study, 142 senior-primary-school CSL learners’ character reading ability and radical awareness were assessed (Time 1) and their compound character reading reassessed a year later (Time 2). Controlling for the effect of simple character reading, it was found that radical awareness uniquely predicted compound character reading at both Time 1 and Time 2, but not its development at Time 2 when previous competency at Time 1 was also controlled. A path model depicting the role of radical awareness in character reading development was constructed, and fit well with the data. The findings suggested that CSL learners would benefit from a systematic literacy program reflecting this structural property of the script.