Reading and Writing

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 53–74 | Cite as

Vocabulary knowledge and morphological awareness in Chinese as a heritage language (CHL) reading comprehension ability

  • Haomin ZhangEmail author
  • Keiko Koda


This study explored the role of vocabulary knowledge and morphological awareness in reading comprehension ability of Chinese as a heritage language (CHL) learners. One hundred ninety five CHL students participated in this study and completed a series of measures including two sets of vocabulary knowledge (one consisting of items pertaining to early exposure to spoken Chinese and the other comprised of items selected from a pool of words in Chinese as a foreign language classrooms), morphological awareness (structural awareness and functional awareness), and reading comprehension ability (lexical inference and passage comprehension). Drawing upon structural equation modeling with a bootstrap estimation method, the study found that vocabulary knowledge and morphological awareness both contributed to reading comprehension among CHL learners. More critically, the results indicated that morphological awareness mediated the relation between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension in CHL learners. Furthermore, multiple regression analyses probed the relative contributions of vocabulary knowledge measures to morphological awareness and reading comprehension, and found that vocabulary knowledge acquired in formal Chinese instruction contributed to morphological awareness and reading comprehension, to a greater extent, than that gained through early exposure to spoken Chinese.


Heritage learners Academic vocabulary Morphological awareness Reading comprehension 



Funding was provided by Carnegie Mellon University (US) Dietrich Presidential Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Modern LanguagesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of EnglishEast China Normal University, Foreign Languages BuildingShanghaiChina

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