Publication details [#63000]

Wong, Yu Ka. 2017. The role of radical awareness in Chinese-as-a-second-language learners’ Chinese character reading development. Language Awareness 26 (3) : 211–225.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher


In this article, the role of radical awareness in Chinese character reading development amid young Chinese-as-a-second-language (CSL) learners is assessed in terms of a structural property of the writing system: the distribution of elementary, one-radical (i.e. one-element) simple characters as against majority, multi-radical compound characters. Radical awareness, that is, sensitivity to and use of linguistic information contained in compound characters’ constituent components (radicals), is known to ease character reading, but the specific structural property just mentioned, the distribution of simple and compound characters, has not been adequately explored. In this inquiry, 142 senior-primary-school CSL learners’ character reading ability and radical awareness were evaluated (Time 1) and their compound character reading reassessed a year later (Time 2). Controlling for the effect of simple character reading, it was found that radical awareness uniquely forecasted compound character reading at both Time 1 and Time 2, but not its development at Time 2 when former competency at Time 1 was also controlled. A path model depicting the role of radical awareness in character reading development was constructed, and fit well with the data. The findings proposed that CSL learners would benefit from a systematic literacy program reflecting this structural property of the script.