, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 559-586
Date: 07 Feb 2008

The role of lexical knowledge and related linguistic components in typical and poor language comprehenders of Chinese

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Abstract

The present study adapted the “Blueprint of the Reader” in comprehending language by Perfetti [2000, C. M. Brown & P. Hagoort. (Eds.), The neurocognition of language (pp. 167–208). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press] as a framework for understanding Chinese language and reading comprehension in a group of 361 secondary Forms 1, 3 and 4 Cantonese-speaking Chinese students (mean age of 15 years) in Hong Kong. This framework with some modifications was tested with nine specially designed Chinese language and reading tasks with reasonably high reliability and surface validity. The main hypothesis was that lexical knowledge consisting of derivational morphology; correction of characters, words and sentences; segmentation of text into phrases and sentences; and writing to dictation should explain considerable individual variations, as shown in the English literature. This was tested with component analyses and multiple regression analyses. The total battery accounted for 66.80% of the variation while lexical knowledge alone explained 33.51% of the individual variation in the overall school performance in Chinese reading and writing. The second hypothesis was that subgroups of poor and good language and reading comprehenders in Chinese would be expected to show overlapping yet different component structures and their performance in the individual component tasks would be expected to differ as tested with analyses of variance. The results confirmed this hypothesis. Task analyses of the written protocols of essay writing and of morphological processing (prefixing and suffixing) provided insight into well-formed and poorly formed writing and word formation according to principles of Chinese psycholinguistics and yielded information for theory-based practice.