ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (1): 60-69.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00060

Previous Articles     Next Articles

The Development of Orthographic Awareness in Chinese Preschool Children

QIAN Yi;ZHAO Jing;BI Hongyan   

  1. (1 Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Beijing 100101, China) (2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China)
  • Received:2012-04-09 Published:2013-01-25 Online:2013-01-25
  • Contact: BI Hongyan

Abstract: The emergent literacy opinion points that children’s literacy develops before formal education. Orthographic awareness makes great contribution to Chinese literacy development, and it including three levels: the knowledge of characteristics of a single radical, legal position of a radical and combination rules of two radicals. The present study aimed to reveal the developmental pattern of preschool children’s emergent literacy by investigating the development of orthographic awareness in Chinese preschool children systematically with two tests. Radicals are the basic units of Chinese character, so a single radical awareness test was conducted to explore the first level of orthographic awareness, in which children were asked to discriminate three types of non-characters: number replacement, a radical of this character was replaced by a number; radical absence, a radical of the character was missing; radical rotation, one radical of this character was inversed or reversed. The radical position and function awareness test using pseudo-characters and non-characters decision was designed to reveal the development of the latter levels of orthographic awareness. There were two types of non-characters with different structures, one consisting of two semantic radicals, and the other consisting of a semantic radical and a phonetic radical with illegal positions. We recruited 112 preschool children, who fell into three age groups: 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and 5-year-olds, respectively consisting of 31, 48 and 33 children. All participants completed both tests. The results of the single radical awareness test showed similar developmental patterns in the radical-absent and radical-rotated non-characters, the scores increased significantly with age; as to the scores of radical-replaced non-characters, significant difference only appeared between 3-year-old children and 5-year-old children. In the radical position and function awareness test, there were no significant differences across age groups in the scores of pseudo-characters, while the scores of non-characters significantly increased with age. Particularly, scores of non-characters with two semantic radicals were significantly higher than non-characters with a semantic radical and a phonetic radical for all three groups. The scores in the two tests were significantly correlated, and the scores in the single radical awareness test were consistently higher than that in radical position and function awareness test for each group children. Results of the single radical awareness test revealed that children’s single radical awareness constantly developed in the preschool period. The discrimination in radical-replaced non-characters developed earlier, however, rejection to radical-rotated characters developed later, revealing the development speed varied across aspects of radical knowledge. The knowledge about radical’s special function as a script was acquired earlier, while recognition about special form of radical progressed later. Radical position and function awareness also developed in preschool children. Three-year-old children could realize that pseudo-characters obeyed orthographic rules, but knowledge about irregularity of non-characters didn’t emerge until 4 years old. Even though there was strong correlation between the single radical awareness and the radical position and function awareness, developmental pattern including developmental speed and order was different. The knowledge of a single radical developed earlier and more quickly than that of radical position and function.

Key words: preschool, Chinese character, radical position, radical function, orthographic awareness