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Learning to Read a Non-alphabetic Script - Chinese

Learning to Read a Non-alphabetic Script - Chinese

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Learning to Read a Non-alphabetic Script - Chinese

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  1. Learning to Read a Non-alphabetic Script - Chinese Or: “I have to learn how many characters?”

  2. Basics of Chinese Characters • Represent a single syllable in the spoken language • Usually a single morpheme, except for some foreign loan words • Give some but not reliable phonetic information • Often composed of other components – See next slides • Total up to 50,000, but average educated Chinese reader knows 3,500 to 5,000

  3. Character Construction: 6 Methods • Pictographs象形 :character is a picture of what it represents 日 for sun and 月 for moon. These were the first characters but they make up a small total of the currently used ones • Indicative指事 :character indicates by its shape what it means, e.g. 二 means two, 上 means “up” and 下 means “down”

  4. Character Construction (2) • Associative会意 : Components combine meanings into a new character, e.g. “sun” and “moon” combine to 明 “bright” • Phonograms形声 : One component (phonetic) contributes the sound, the other (signific) the meaning. The most common class of characters, totaling 85% of those in use. E.g. 木 (wood) + 每 (mei) = 梅 (plum, mei)

  5. Character Construction (3) • Meaning Expansion转注 : A character’s original meaning gets expanded • Phonetic Borrowing假借 : A character is used for another word with the same meaning, e.g. 萬was originally “scorpion” but now “10,000”

  6. Some Myths • Chinese characters are a universal writing system • Chinese characters are ideographs (represent meaning directly) • Chinese characters are actually “morpho-syllabic” and still largely phonologically based

  7. Differences between English and Chinese • English letters correspond to phonemes while sinographs correspond to syllables and morphemes • Letters have a far fewer visually distinctive features than sinographs • Chinese morphemes are almost always monosyllabic, English allows more variety • Chinese words are often two or more morphemes, with no word boundaries indicated • Chinese uses many more graphic units

  8. Learning to Read Chinese (Van and Zian, 1962) • Starts with learning to read characters • Three stages • Relate sound/meaning to global shape of character • Associate sound/meaning with parts of characters, often confusing parts with similar shapes • Associate sound/meaning with actual character strokes

  9. Learning to Read EnglishFour Phases (Ehri, 1992) • Pre-alphabetic – use visual clues with word and in word • Partial alphabetic – readers use some of the component letters of words and their sounds • Full alphabetic – Children can relate letters to the sounds they produce (grapheme-phoneme correspondence) • Consolidated alphabetic – “With repeated exposure, particular letter patterns…become multi-letter units such as onsets and rimes”

  10. Comparison • Similarities • Learning both orthographies starts with associating oral word with print stimulus • Learning is through paired associations with various visual clues • Children then analyze words into their components (letters or radicals)

  11. Comparison • Differences • Phonemic awareness is a good predictor of later English reading skills, but not in Chinese • Knowledge of general information and verbal memory is a good predictor of ability to read Chinese and Japanese • Differences appear to be related to the differences in orthography

  12. An Owed to the Spelling Checker: I have a spelling checker It came with my PC It plane lee marks four my revue Miss steaks aye can knot sea. Eye ran this poem threw it, Your sure reel glad two no. Its vary polished in it's weigh, My checker tolled me sew.

  13. Learnability of English and Chinese • Is it harder to learn Chinese than English? • It would seem so, since Chinese readers have to learn so many characters • But that would indicate there should be more reading disabled Chinese and that they should be behind their English-reading equivalents • But a study has shown this to be untrue

  14. Learnability (2) • How can reading levels be similar across languages? • Perhaps the orthographies really are well suited for the languages • Each orthography has its advantages and disadvantages that balance each other out • Perhaps switching to an alphabetic system in China would bring its own problems

  15. A Note on Romanizations • Various attempts have been made to represent Chinese in an alphabetic script • Difficult because of tones and large number of morphemes • Some systems include • Pinyin – uses Latin letters, tones indicated by diacritics on top of vowel but easily left off • Guoyeu Romatzyh – Also uses Latin alphabet, but tones represented in spelling