Role of radical awareness in the character and word acquisition of Chinese children

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A TOTAL of 292 Chinese children in the first, third, or fifth grade participated in one of two experiments investigating radical awareness; that is, the insight that a component of Chinese characters, called the radical, usually provides information about the character's meaning. The technique used in the experiments was to present two-character words familiar from oral language but which the children had not seen before in print. One of the characters was written in Pinyin, the alphabetic system that Chinese children learn in the first 2 months of first grade. The children's task was to select a character to replace the Pinyin. The first experiment showed that third graders and fifth graders were able to select characters containing the correct radicals even when the characters as a whole were unfamiliar to them, which must mean that they were aware of the relationship between a radical and the meaning of a character. The second experiment showed that children were better able to use radicals to derive the meanings of new characters when the radicals were familiar and the conceptual difficulty of the words was low. Children rated as good readers by their teachers displayed more awareness of radicals than children rated as poor readers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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