Papers and research pertaining to learning Chinese or a L2.
Some useful websites for further investigation:
If you have any other articles you think should be listed here, feel free to contact me.
Abstract: We present a novel algorithm for optimizing the order in which Chinese characters are learned, one that incorporates the benefits of learning them in order of usage frequency and in order of their hierarchal structural relationships. We show that our work outperforms previously published orders and algorithms. Our algorithm is applicable to any scheduling task where nodes have intrinsic differences in importance and must be visited in topological order.
Abstract: Word frequency is the most important variable in language research. However, despite the growing interest in the Chinese language, there are only a few sources of word frequency measures available to researchers, and the quality is less than what researchers in other languages are used to.
Abstract: Two studies investigating the significance of radical knowledge in Chinese reading development are reported in this paper. Study 1 examined the semantic radical knowledge of 20 Grade 1, 20 Grade 3, and 20 Grade 5 Chinese children in Hong Kong. It was found that various types of semantic radical knowledge, including the position and semantic category of semantic radicals, correlated significantly with Chinese word reading and sentence comprehension. Study 2 examined phonetic radical knowledge with another three groups of 20 Chinese children in Grades 1, 3, and 5 respectively. It was found that various measures of phonetic radical knowledge, including the function and sound value of phonetic radicals, correlated significantly with Chinese word reading. These studies found that, developmentally, the children started acquiring the knowledge of character structure, position, semantic category, and sound value of radicals from about Grade 1. However, they did not understand that the function of semantic radicals is to provide meaning cues in reading until Grade 3. The authors concluded that the radical is an important orthographic processing unit in reading development in Chinese.
Abstract: We develop an efficient learning strategy of Chinese characters based on the network of the hierarchical structural relations between Chinese characters. A more efficient strategy is that of learning the same number of useful Chinese characters in less effort or time. We construct a node-weighted network of Chinese characters, where character usage frequencies are used as node weights. Using this hierarchical node-weighted network, we propose a new learning method, the distributed node weight (DNW) strategy, which is based on a new measure of nodes' importance that considers both the weight of the nodes and its location in the network hierarchical structure. Chinese character learning strategies, particularly their learning order, are analyzed as dynamical processes over the network. We compare the efficiency of three theoretical learning methods and two commonly used methods from mainstream Chinese textbooks, one for Chinese elementary school students and the other for students learning Chinese as a second language. We find that the DNW method significantly outperforms the others, implying that the efficiency of current learning methods of major textbooks can be greatly improved.
Abstract: This study investigated whether beginning non-native learners of Chinese can use phonological and semantic information of radicals to learn the sounds and meanings of new Chinese characters. Thirty-four seventh and eighth grade American adolescents, who received intensive Chinese instruction for one semester, were taught 16 compound pseudo-characters paired with novel pictures over three learning trials. After each learning trial, students were asked to produce the sounds and meanings of pseudo-characters in which semantic transparency and phonetic regularity of radicals were manipulated. Results showed a facilitation effect of transparent semantic radicals in learning character meanings in early trials. There was a trend that students learned to read regular and transparent characters better than irregular and opaque characters. The ability to learn orthography -pronunciation association uniquely predicted Chinese word reading after controlling for semantic and phonetic radical knowledge. These findings suggest a predominant use of semantic strategy and the importance of orthography to phonology mappings in learning to read Chinese for beginning non-native learners of Chinese.
Abstract: In this study, we investigated the role of visual and phonological information in lexical access of Chinese characters. Homophonic English words have been the main source of stimuli for word recognition research. However, since these stimuli also often look alike, visual and phonological in- formation may be confounded in reported experiments. In contrast, many homophonic Chinese characters are visually distinct. In addition, visually similar characters often have very different pronunciations, these characteristics allow a more controlled investigation of the roles of visual and phonological information in activation of meaning, In the present study, two types of Chinese characters were used in a semantic categorization paradigm: integrated characters, which contain strokes that are not separable; and compound characters, which contain at least two clearly identifiable components. The results show that the recognition of a Chinese integrated character depends primarily on visual information, whereas the recognition of a Chinese compound character relies on visual, phonological, and semantic information. It is concluded that visual information plays a greater role in Chinese character recognition than has previously been documented.
Abstract: The present study is based on the theoretical assumptions that frequency of characters and their structural components, as well as the frequency types of structural components, are important to enable learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) to discover the underlying structure of Chinese characters. In the CFL context, since reliable target language input is limited largely to textbook materials and teacher instruction, it is important to more rigorously examine the inventory of Chinese characters that is typically presented in CFL textbooks.
Abstract: This dissertation examines the effects of semantic and phonetic radicals on Chinese character decoding by high-intermediate level Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) learners. The results of the main study (discussed in Chapter #5) suggest that the CFL learners tested have a well-developed semantic pathway to recognition; however, their phonological pathway is not yet a reliable means of character identification.
Abstract: Previous studies suggest that writing helps reading development in Chinese in both first and second language settings by enabling higher quality orthographic representation of the characters. This study investigated the comparative effectiveness of reading, animation, and writing in developing foreign language learners’ orthographic knowledge of Chinese and found that, for learners with existing orthographic knowledge, the three learning conditions facilitated character learning in different ways: Writing and animation both led to better form recognition, while reading produced superior meaning and sound recalls. In addition, the effect of animation in meaning recall was also better than writing. In developing the skill of reproducing characters from memory, writing was superior. Implications for the teaching and learning of Chinese characters are offered.
Abstract: This study examined how the properties of semantic radicals affect character meaning inference among adult learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL). A semantic radical is a component of a compound character whose primary function is to provide an aspect of the meaning of its host character. Because radicals differ in the information they supply and their relationships with the characters’ meaning, their functions are not uniformly salient to users. This study focused on the notion of radical functional salience and its impacts on character learning and processing. In Study 1, we identified radical properties pertinent to functional salience via a sequence of property analyses, and determined how the identified properties were related to perceived familiarity with commonly used radicals among native Chinese speakers. Based on the analyses, in Study 2, we examined how functional salience affects the way CFL learners use radical information through character meaning extraction and inference tasks. The results demonstrated that functional salience was differentially related to performance variances. The findings suggest that CFL learners’ use of radical information during character processing is explained jointly by the properties of semantic radicals and learners’ radical knowledge.
Abstract: Unlike most alphabetic scripts, Chinese text is generally printed as a string of continuous characters, with no visually distinct interword spaces. There is, therefore, no clear visual information available for Chinese readers to determine where the word boundaries lie within a sentence. Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in how Chinese readers segment and identify words within sentence contexts. There has, however, been less research focusing on how readers segment and acquire novel words when they are encountered during reading. In the present study, the aim was to examine which word segmentation cues Chinese readers use when learning novel words in sentence contexts.
Abstract: Previous research has shown that the learning of second language words in the simultaneous presence of pictures or first language translation equivalents interferes with their acquisition. The purpose of this study was to investigate variables associated with the learning of Chinese characters as second language stimuli (L2). Acquisition for both naming of English translations and pronunciations was shown to proceed more rapidly under conditions in which each character was presented 5 s prior to its pinyin and English word equivalent, in contrast to simultaneous presentation conditions. These data were interpreted in term s of (a) interference, which can occur when students attend to multiple input simultaneously, and (b) the beneficial effects of attending to L2 stimuli prior to their associations in language learning contexts. It was concluded that the presentation of a character first, and the provision of its associated pinyin and English translation after a short delay is recommended when teaching characters for non-native speakers of Chinese at the early stage.
Abstract: The key problems of learning through extensive reading are clear. Corpus analysis shows that words beyond the 2000 most frequent are unlikely to be encountered in natural reading in sufficient numbers for consistent learning to occur. Lexical profile analysis shows that the amount of new vocabulary in natural texts is at odds with both the lexical level and learning capacity of most learners. Text comparison analysis further shows that the rate of new word introduction in a text designed for native speakers is far more than most L2 learners will be able to cope with. And yet these same tools can also be employed positively to multiply learning opportunities, whether by facilitating the adaptation of texts that learners can read and learn from, or by habilitating un-adapted texts through external resourcing.
Abstract: A systematic analysis of segmental and tonal errors showed that Australian learners made errors not only in tones but also in some initial consonants and finals which were absent in English. Most errors are associated with the L1 transfer effect, and some of them are also ascribed to the confusion caused by the Pinyin spelling. Our findings will be beneficial not only in the pedagogical sense – those frequently observed errors can be treated purposefully in language teaching, but also for the development of computer-assisted language learning programs.
Abstract: In this work, we quantify common tonal and phonetic errors made by second language learners of Mandarin Chinese. Pronunciation patterns of 300 native speakers of European languages are analyzed. Tonal errors (30.56%) are found to be more prevalent than phonetic ones (8.71%). Common errors include overemphasis of Tone 3 and inadequate aspiration of affricate consonants. Decision tree clustering was used to further characterize these error patterns with their tonal and phonetic context. Our findings are potentially useful in second language education and in computer assisted language learning.
Abstract: This study examines the acquisition of utterance-level pitch patterns in Mandarin Chinese by American second language (L2) learners. It is an exploratory study with the goal of identifying the utterance-level prosody in L2 Mandarin Chinese. The focus of this study is not on the pitch patterns of individual learners but those of subject groups. The analysis shows that the pitch patterns between two syntactic structures for the same tone sequence vary with the tone sequence and the subject group. The biggest difference between first language (L1) and L2 Mandarin Chinese lies in the frequency of target undershoot in L2 speech. The infrequent tone target undershoot in L2 speech, especially among the intermediate learners, was attributed to the incomplete acquisition of L2 prosody. It was argued that the infrequent tone target undershoot may render L2 speech more staccato or robot-like, which contributes to the perception of a foreign accent in L2 Mandarin Chinese.
Abstract: This paper reviews research on the difficulties of acquiring a second language in general and research that specifically details the difficulty of acquiring Chinese as a second language. Based on this research, the author also reveals some areas that should be researched further in order to advance the field. This paper reviews research on the difficulties of acquiring a second language in general and research that specifically details the difficulty of acquiring Chinese as a second language. Based on this research, the author also reveals some areas that should be researched further in order to advance the field.
Abstract: This book examines non-native Mandarin Chinese tone productions made by speakers of English, Japanese, and Korean. Its goal is to show that there are factors influencing second-language acquisition that extend beyond transfer of structures from the learner’s first language and beyond characteristics extracted from the learner’s target language. The first two chapters provide background on the phonetics and phonology of Mandarin Chinese tones, and survey major findings from the past several decades on the first- and second-language acquisition of Chinese tones. The third chapter describes the procedure of one main experiment designed to answer several questions about second-language tone acquisition. The book’s three core chapters, Chapters 4–6, present research investigating the presence of influences that extend beyond learners’ first languages. The book concludes with a discussion in Chapter 7 of pedagogical implications and a review of current teaching materials for Chinese tones. Practical suggestions and ten sets of sample teaching materials are provided to improve Chinese tonal pedagogy.
Abstract: The pronunciation of Beijing Mandarin, which is the basis for Modern Standard Mandarin, is in reality not as straightforward as it is usually presented. General books on the language and common textbooks in English on the subject commonly only give very basic, prescriptive (though supposedly descriptive) analyses of the basic features of pronunciation. Finer points are generally not discussed in any detail. The treatment of amongst other things the aspect of word stress (the parts of words that are emphasized in speech) in mastering and indeed properly understanding Chinese is thus neglected. It has not yet acquired the position in Chinese language-teaching it arguably needs, so that the language may begin to be taught and indeed learned in a more comprehensive manner. This thesis will take a basic analytical approach to the phenomenon of word stress in Beijing Mandarin. It compares and discusses available meta-information on the topic, as well as its theoretical underpinnings and practical applications, and from a pedagogical starting point aims to bring attention to these important nuances in the Chinese language.
Abstract: This survey study, which involved 108 language learners enrolled in first-year Chinese as a foreign language classrooms in the United States, intended to address the research questions, ‘What types of Chinese-character learning strategies do US learners use?’ and ‘Do US learners’ Chinese-character learning strategy use differ based on the following learner differences: (1) Gender, (2) Home background, and (3) Previous foreign language learning experiences?’ Factor analysis and MANOVA tests were run using the participants’ responses in the Character Learning Strategy Inventory and the background surveys. The results of factor analysis illustrated that the participants used six types of strategies: practicing naturalistically, associating, paying attention to the characters, using mechanical techniques, grouping, and paying attention to the pronunciation. The MANOVA test results found significant interactive effect between gender and home background on strategies of using mechanical techniques. Another interactive effect was found among gender, home background, and previous foreign language learning experiences on strategies of paying attention to the characters.
Abstract: In the field of teaching and learning Chinese as a foreign language (CFL), most studies investigate Chinese character learning strategies in pen-and-paper study by campus-based students. With the increase in distance-learning, and expanding popularity of smartphones and tablets and widespread availability of mobile applications for language learning, it is now important to research mobile-assisted character learning strategies by distance learners. This study attempts to (i) identify changing practices when character learning is assisted by mobile technology; and (ii) analyse the underlying causes for the changing practices. These issues were investigated using an online survey, learning diary and email interviews with UK-based distance learners of beginners’ Chinese (n = 22). The findings suggest that there are important emerging new practices and previously unreported strategies such as constantly testing oneself and using pinyin input to identify new characters. They also reveal two strategy types not reported in previous research concerning social and affective dimensions. The study thereby provides important new insights into how adult distance learners of Chinese at beginners’ level learn characters when assisted by mobile technology, with significant pedagogical implications for Chinese character pedagogy in terms of course design and learner support.
Abstract: The phonetic radical of a Chinese character is typically considered as a sublexical unit providing clues to pronunciation. This tradition was challenged by a previous study showing that the meanings of phonetic radicals affected character naming speed. Three experiments were conducted to further investigate this issue. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that the meanings of phonetic radicals could be activated in the primed character decision and semantic categorisation tasks, indicating that the semantic activation of phonetic radicals is robust in different tasks. Moreover, Experiment 1 also showed that the meanings of phonetic radicals could be as strongly activated as whole characters. Experiment 3 adopted a multi-prime procedure and showed that the semantic activation of phonetic radicals could be eliminated when a prior context was supportive to whole-character meanings. These results are discussed with reference to the nature of sublexical processing in Chinese and how context influences character recognition.
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.
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.
Abstract: Previous literature has established that tone awareness is significantly related to reading development in young children (age 3–6 years) across Chinese-speaking societies. To date, no study has been conducted to explicitly examine how tone awareness contributes to reading at the intermediate level of primary schooling, or the relationship between tone awareness and pinyin instruction, a demonstrated booster for phonological awareness in Chinese children. The present study aimed to fill this gap by investigating the relationship between tone awareness and pinyin proficiency, and the contribution of each construct to Chinese reading among 8- to 9-year-old children in Mainland China. Experiment 1 compared the relative contribution of tone awareness and pinyin proficiency to Chinese reading, and Experiment 2 explored the contribution of tone sensitivity to Chinese reading after controlling for rapid naming. Results showed that tone awareness was the only significant predictor of Chinese sentence reading when entered with onset awareness and pinyin proficiency measures (Experiment 1); and that tone awareness continued to be a unique contributor to Chinese sentence reading after controlling for speed naming measures (Experiment 2). This study provides important empirical evidence for the critical role of tone awareness in Chinese reading in intermediate-level primary school children.
Abstract: This study examined the impact of providing access to word pronunciation on the assessment of L2 Chinese learners’ vocabulary knowledge. Chinese heritage learners (HLs) and foreign language learners (FLs) studying in American universities undertook a computer-based test in which they had first to select a picture that represented the meaning of a target word presented in characters only, and then answer the same item presented in both characters and pinyin (i.e. the alphabetic system to facilitate the pronunciation of characters). The provision of pinyin substantially increased the test reliability for both groups of learners but the differences between the no-pinyin and pinyin conditions were less marked for FLs than HLs. In the no-pinyin condition, the groups showed no significant score difference, whereas in the pinyin condition, HLs significantly outperformed FLs. The proportion of HLs who successfully corrected their original choices following provision of pinyin was also notably higher. These findings suggest that provision of pinyin impacted the two groups differentially. Implications for vocabulary knowledge assessment for different types of Chinese learners are discussed.
Abstract: This paper addresses a number of questions in the emerging area of blended Chinese language learning design. First, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the extant literature? Second, how might insights from the wider blended and blended language learning literature advance the field? Third, how might these literatures be synthesised to produce a set of parameters for effective blended Chinese language learning design? Fourth, what might a course based on these parameters look like in practice? The review of relevant literature, identified via a Google Scholar search, is carried out using an integrative literature review methodology. This approach proves a useful vehicle for critically evaluating the state of the literature and for developing practical guidance for blended Chinese language learning designers based on a synthesis of findings from the review with valuable insights from the wider blended language learning research. The design parameters that emerge from this process (mode, integration, research, asynchronicity, challenges, learners and evaluation, with the initial letter of each of the parameters providing the acronym MIRACLE) are discussed in turn and their applicability demonstrated using examples from a beginners’ Chinese language course delivered at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
In the present study, the mediating roles of syllable awareness, orthographic knowledge, and vocabulary skills and the moderating role of morpheme family size in the association between morphological awareness and Chinese character reading were investigated with 176 second-grade Hong Kong Chinese children. In the path analyses, the results indicated significant partial mediating effects of semantic radical function knowledge and vocabulary skills but not of syllable awareness and pseudocharacter identification. A significant moderating effect of morpheme family size was also observed. Children with relatively poor compounding structure awareness performed much more poorly in reading Chinese characters that had a small family size. The mediating and moderating effects documented in the present study can help us understand the mechanism involved in the relationship between morphological awareness and Chinese character reading and provide evidence as a basis for modifying current instruction strategies for improving Chinese children’s reading performance.