Reading and Writing

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 1275–1293 | Cite as

The role of morphological awareness in L2 Chinese lexical inference: from a perspective of word semantic transparency

  • Tianxu ChenEmail author


Lexical inference refers to the ability to make informed guesses about the meaning of an unknown word. This inferencing ability is affected by learner-related (i.e., morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge) and language-related (i.e., word semantic transparency) factors. Previous studies have shown that these factors play independent roles in lexical inference for second language (L2) learners. However, little is known regarding how language-related factors shape the contributions of learner-related factors to lexical inference. To fill this gap, the present study addressed two research questions. (1) Does morphological awareness, mediated by vocabulary knowledge, contribute to lexical inference when the inferred words have different levels of semantic transparency? (2) If so, how are these contributions of morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge affected by word semantic transparency? Ninety-one intermediate-level L2 Chinese learners participated in this study; they completed two morphological awareness tasks, one vocabulary knowledge task, and one lexical inference task in Chinese. The findings, based on correlational analyses, hierarchical multiple regressions, and mediation analyses, showed the following: (1) vocabulary knowledge and morphological awareness did not affect lexical inference for opaque words. (2) Vocabulary knowledge was a significant and direct predictor of lexical inference for transparent and semi-transparent words. And (3) morphological awareness, when mediated by vocabulary knowledge, indirectly contributed to lexical inference for transparent words, but it directly and indirectly made significant contributions to lexical inference for semi-transparent words.


L2 Chinese Morphological awareness Lexical inference Semantic transparency 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Modern LanguagesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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