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Acta Psychologica Sinica
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The reciprocal relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge among Chinese children: A longitudinal study
ZHAO Ying1,2; CHENG Yahua3; WU Xinchun1; NGUYEN Thi Phuong1
(1 Research Center of Children’s Reading and Learning, Beijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China) (2 Institute of Education, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, China) (3 Department of Psychology, Ningbo University, Ningbo 315211, China)
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Abstract  

Vocabulary knowledge develops rapidly in elementary school years and plays an important role in children’s reading comprehension and school achievement. Instruction alone is not sufficient to explain the variance in vocabulary acquisition. Cognitive and linguistic skills may make considerable contribution to the development of vocabulary knowledge. As a form of metalinguistic awareness, morphological awareness, defined as “children’s conscious awareness of the morphemic structure of words and the ability to reflect on and manipulate that structure”, is closely related to vocabulary knowledge. The structure system of morphological awareness varies in different language systems. Contrast with alphabetic languages, Chinese has its unique characteristics: most productive compounding structure and abundance of homophones. Homophone awareness, homograph awareness and compounding awareness are three important components of morphological awareness in Chinese. The relationships among various subtypes of morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge may be different across grades and may be reciprocal. Besides, with the increasing grade, the nature of the reciprocal relationships among three subtypes of morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge may follow a predictable pattern. This across-grade longitudinal study investigated the reciprocal relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge among Chinese children. In total, 399 children (first, third and fifth graders) participated at two time points. The interval was one year. All participants were tested on morphological awareness (homophone awareness, homograph awareness and compounding awareness) and vocabulary knowledge in both times, along with phonological awareness, and nonverbal reasoning at Time 1 as control variables. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to investigate the relationship among children’s three subtypes morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge after controlling for intelligence, phonological awareness and the auto-regression effects. The results showed that (1) Morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge of first, third, and fifth grade children improved from Time 1 to Time 2. (2) With the age, IQ, phonological awareness and the autoregressive effect of vocabulary knowledge being controlled, children’s homophone awareness and compounding awareness of the grade 1 at Time 1 significantly predicted their vocabulary knowledge at Time 2 (one year later). However, homograph awareness at Time 1 did not predict vocabulary at Time 2 significantly. Compounding awareness of the grade 3 at Time 1 uniquely predicted the development of their vocabulary knowledge in one year later, but neither homophone awareness nor homograph awareness at Time 1 significantly predicted later vocabulary knowledge. And for the grade 5, homograph awareness and compounding awareness at Time 1 could significantly predict vocabulary knowledge at Time 2, but homophone awareness did not. (3) With the age, IQ, phonological awareness and the autoregressive effects of the three subtypes of morphological awareness being controlled, children’s vocabulary knowledge of the grade 1 at Time 1 uniquely predicted their homophone awareness, homograph awareness, and compounding awareness one year later respectively, and the same pattern was found in the fifth grade students; for the grade 3, vocabulary at Time 1 could predict the change in homograph awareness and compounding awareness between two time points, but did not predict their homophone awareness. The results suggest a reciprocal relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge among Chinese elementary children. The relationships among three subtypes of morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge were variously represented in Chinese children who had different learning experiences. Homophone awareness is a crucial factor for early vocabulary acquisition. However, homograph awareness may contribute to advanced vocabulary development in upper elementary years. In addition, compounding awareness is a salient contributor to Chinese children’s vocabulary development throughout the entire elementary school years. Reciprocally, vocabulary knowledge has unique contribution to the development of morphological awareness for the children in all three grades.

Keywords morphological awareness      vocabulary knowledge      Chinese children      longitudinal study     
Corresponding Authors: WU Xinchun, E-mail: xcwu@bnu.edu.cn    
Issue Date: 25 November 2016
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ZHAO Ying
CHENG Yahua
WU Xinchun
NGUYEN Thi Phuong
Cite this article:   
ZHAO Ying,CHENG Yahua,WU Xinchun, et al. The reciprocal relationship between morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge among Chinese children: A longitudinal study[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.01434
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http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.01434     OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/Y2016/V48/I11/1434
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