Semantic and Phonological Decoding in Children’s Orthographic Learning in Chinese

Luan Li*, Eva Marinus, Anne Castles, Miao Ling Hsieh, Hua Chen Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we investigated if children build a print-to-meaning connection via the semantic radical–a mechanism we call semantic decoding–and its interaction with phonological decoding in orthographic learning of Chinese compound characters. Ninety-two Grade 4 children were taught the pronunciations and meanings of 16 pseudocharacters and were then exposed to their written forms in short stories. Half of the characters contained semantic radicals related to the taught meaning; the other half were unrelated. Half of the children learned the pseudocharacters’ regular pronunciations; the other half learned the irregular pronunciations. There was better orthographic learning of regular than irregular pseudocharacters across measures of spelling and orthographic choice. However, the effect of semantic decoding was not as unequivocal. The findings indicate that in Chinese, decoding via phonetic radicals underpins orthographic learning. Whereas, the effect of semantic decoding might depend more on the linguistic features of the radicals and the learning environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-334
Number of pages16
JournalScientific Studies of Reading
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Semantic and Phonological Decoding in Children’s Orthographic Learning in Chinese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this