Whether and how partial radical information in different transparency levels helps in the acquisition of Chinese characters, as well as how contextual information interacts with semantic transparency in character meaning inference, are open questions and are explored in the present study. A character meaning inference task in isolation and a character meaning inference task in context were completed by 37 first-year students
in the University of Pittsburgh Chinese program. Three kinds of characters (transparent, semitransparent, and single-unit characters without radicals) were chosen based on Shu et al.'s (2003) study, and two conditions (isolation and context) were designed. The results showed that in both conditions, learners achieved higher scores on transparent characters than on semi-transparent characters, and their performance was significantly better on compound characters (both transparent and semitransparent) than single-unit characters without radicals. Also, context impeded with learning semitransparent characters, but did not affect transparent and single-unit characters. The results suggest that partial radical information helps Chinese character learning, and that teaching compound characters componentially may be more effective than teaching them holistically.
Selected Proceedings of the 2011 Second Language Research Forum: Converging Theory and Practice
edited by Erik Voss, Shu-Ju Diana Tai, and Zhi Li
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