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Chinese character recognition by first and second language learners in primary schools


Ng, Xin Jing (2014) Chinese character recognition by first and second language learners in primary schools. Masters thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia.


In alphabetic language systems, the processing of word-level units does not wait for “a complete specification of all letter units” before activating the word-level phonology (Liu, Wang & Perfetti, 2007, p. 472). Therefore, alphabetic language systems employ cascade processing during word recognition. However, in Chinese, a logographic language system, the word-level phonology can only be activated upon the full orthographic specification of a character (Liu, Wang & Perfetti, 2007). Therefore, logographic language system like Chinese is argued to employ threshold processing for word recognition. Given that Chinese second language (L2) learners learning to write in the L2 may have both orthographic and phonological representations that differ from their first language (L1), the question then arises: How do cross-linguistic differences in orthographic and phonological representations influence word recognition in Chinese among Malay speakers learning Chinese as an L2? A comparison was made between L1 and L2 learners to examine their similarity and differences in terms of Chinese character recognition. The present study models the study by Liu, Wang and Perfetti (2007), which investigated threshold processing of Chinese characters for adult L2 learners. The present study however focused on learners at the primary school level. It aimed to investigate the priming conditions which facilitate or inhibit the learning of Chinese characters for two groups of learners: thirty-nine Malay learners of Chinese in Chinese primary schools, whose first language is an alphabetic language, and thirty-nine native Chinese learners. A primed matching task was administered where the 78 subjects from Chinese primary schools were required to match the logographic character with its corresponding hanyu pinyin or vice versa. Three priming conditions defined by the prime – target relation were applied. The three priming conditions include character pairs which are orthographically similar, phonologically similar (homophones) and semantically related. Pinyin pairs which are semantically related were also included in the task. To control baseline effect, unrelated control primes were also included in the task. A Chinese proficiency test was administered to assign students into different proficiency level groups whereas the Naming and Meaning tasks were administered to verify subject selection for the Primed Matching Task. These tasks were also used to elicit errors done by the subjects in terms of orthography, phonology and semantic. No significant differences were found between L1 and L2 learners from Chinese primary schools in terms of primed matching reaction time. Only semantically similar character pairs elicited a significant difference between the learners. Semantically similar character primes increased word recognition accuracy among L1 learners significantly more than L2 learners. The findings also showed that L2 learners are facilitated by homophonic priming whereas L1 learners are inhibited by homophonic priming due to the phonology to orthography feedback activation. Different methods of teaching can be applied to suit different learners accordingly.

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Additional Metadata

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subject: Chinese characters
Subject: Chinese language
Call Number: FBMK 2014 55
Chairman Supervisor: Associate Professor Yap Ngee Thai, PhD
Divisions: Faculty of Modern Language and Communication
Depositing User: Ms. Nur Faseha Mohd Kadim
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2019 07:16
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2019 07:16
URI: http://psasir.upm.edu.my/id/eprint/70071
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