Chinese childrens concept of word

Tzu Jung Lin, Richard C. Anderson, Yu Min Ku, Kiel Christianson, Jerome L. Packard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In written Chinese, words are not separated by spaces, which may make parsing text into words difficult. The concept of word, a metalinguistic term meaning awareness that words have lexicalized meanings and certain structural properties, may be important in learning to read Chinese, helping readers distinguish the words in texts. Second-graders, fifth-graders, and college students in Taiwan completed a word parsing task in which they circled the words in strings of characters. Results showed improvement with age in the ability to distinguish two features of words, meaningful versus nonsense and lexicalized versus nonlexicalized. Performance on the word parsing task was correlated with reading comprehension and was predicted by constraints on the position characters occupy within words, character co-occurrence frequency, and especially whether a character combination has a lexicalized meaning. The study suggests that even second graders are aware of core properties of words, although the concept of word continues to develop as children acquire literacy experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
Number of pages17
JournalWriting Systems Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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