Reading and Writing

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 357–375 | Cite as

The relationship between the processing of semantic relation information and morphological awareness among Hong Kong Chinese children

  • Zhengye Xu
  • Duo LiuEmail author


In the present study, 151 third-grade Hong Kong children participated in two expression-picture matching experiments (a relation priming paradigm). In this paradigm, an unambiguous prime was first presented, followed by an ambiguous target that could be interpreted with either of two relations (i.e., Descriptor and Possessor). Children were asked to judge which picture matched with the compounds in both the prime and target sessions. The linear mixed model analysis was applied to investigate the semantic relation processing in novel ambiguous combination and its relationship with children’s performances on morphological awareness tasks. In Experiment 1, the relation priming effect (i.e., children preferred to select the target pictures involving the same relation with the primes) was observed. At the same time, children’s morphological awareness showed a positive moderation effect on relation priming. Experiment 2 investigated whether visual features, rather than semantic relations, produced priming effect. The interaction between semantic relation processing and morphological awareness was observed as well in the situation that the hints of visual features were removed. The results indicated that children with skilled morphological awareness, but not the children with less skilled morphological awareness, showed significant relation priming effect, even without the visual cues. Compared to children with less skilled morphological awareness, children with skilled morphological awareness were better in activating semantic relation information when reading compounds. These findings may help us understand the mechanism of the association between MA and Chinese literacy acquisition.


Compound-picture matching Morphological awareness Noun–noun combination Relation priming effect 



This study was supported by RGC Grant 18404114 of the Education University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. We thank all the children, their parents and teachers, for their participation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Special Education and CounsellingThe Education University of Hong KongTai PoHong Kong

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