Facets of Metalinguistic Awareness that Contribute to Chinese Literacy

Li Wenling, Richard C. Anderson, William Nagy, Zhang Houcan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study evaluated the role of metalinguistic awareness in learning to read Chinese. Reading ability depends not only on children’s basic abilities to comprehend and use language (i.e., linguistic knowledge) but also on metalinguistic knowledge. According to our theory, two facets of metalinguistic awareness important for learning to read Chinese are phonological awareness and morphological awareness. To evaluate this theory, batteries of test were developed and administered to representative samples of first- and fourth grade students. The tests assessing phonological awareness consisted of syllable reversing, onset deletion, final deletion and tone judgment. The tests to assess morphological awareness were radical awareness, morpheme awareness and homographic awareness. The tests to assess reading comprehension were character knowledge, syntactic awareness, cloze completion, sentence reading, pinyin reading, and story reading. Altogether data was collected from 400 first-grade and 400 fourth grade students in ten average-level primary schools. Structural equation models and communality and uniqueness analysis confirmed that morphological awareness and phonological awareness are important in learning to read Chinese, and second, that morphological awareness is the more important of the two
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChinese Children’s Reading Acquisition
EditorsLi Wenling, Janet S. Gaffney, Jerome L. Packard
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4615-0859-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-4613-5274-7
StatePublished - 2002


  • metalinguistic awareness
  • morphological awareness
  • phonological awareness
  • measurement
  • Chinese reading


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