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Cross-lagged relations between vocabulary and word reading in multi-scripts

Abstract

The goal of this study was to examine the cross-lagged relations between vocabulary and word reading in children learning two scripts at the same time (pinyin and Chinese). One hundred fifty-nine third-year kindergarten Chinese children (70 girls and 89 boys; mean age = 72.70 months) were assessed on measures of nonverbal IQ, phonological awareness, and vocabulary. In Grades 1 and 2, they were reassessed on pinyin reading, Chinese word reading, and vocabulary. Results of cross-lagged analysis indicated that vocabulary and Chinese word reading were reciprocally related. In contrast, the relation between pinyin reading and vocabulary was unidirectional (pinyin reading in Grade 1 predicted vocabulary in Grade 2). Taken together, these findings suggest that the direction of the relation between vocabulary and word reading is sensitive to the features of the script children are learning to read (thus, providing support of the script relativity hypothesis) and the time when these measures are assessed in different scripts.

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Notes

  1. Notice though that neither of these theoretical models makes predictions about the developmental relations of word reading and vocabulary. They only indicate that the relations between word reading and vocabulary should be reciprocal.

  2. Pinyin is introduced to first graders in mainland China about 3 weeks after the beginning of the first term of Grade 1 and it is the second unit in the children’s book (the first unit includes teaching simple Chinese characters). Its intensive teaching lasts about 8–10 weeks and it is taught every day for about an hour. From November of Grade 1 onwards, children are exposed and learn both pinyin and Chinese character. According to the Chinese curriculum standards in compulsory education (Ministry of Education, 2011), the study of pinyin is the goal of both Grades 1 and 2. This is why the general practice whenever a new character is to be taught in Grades 1 and 2 is to present the character simultaneously with its pinyin transcription printed on top of it. Children are first asked to sound out the pinyin syllable in order to get to the pronunciation of the character.

  3. There is no SES index available for the schools in China. However, we recruited children from the same kindergartens that participated in our previous studies (e.g., Zhang et al., 2018, 2019) in which we had asked parents to report on their education and income. These studies indicated that the family’s SES level was representative of the general population in Jining. Thus, by recruiting children from the same kindergartens, we are confident that the current sample is also representative in SES of the general population.

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Acknowledgement

This research was supported by a research grant from Jining University (2020QNSK01) to the third author.

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Correspondence to George K. Georgiou.

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Georgiou, G.K., Inoue, T. & Zhang, SZ. Cross-lagged relations between vocabulary and word reading in multi-scripts. Read Writ 35, 1343–1358 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-021-10233-7

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Keywords

  • Chinese
  • Cross-lagged analysis
  • Pinyin
  • Reading
  • Script relativity hypothesis
  • Vocabulary