Reading and Writing

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 431–450 | Cite as

Sensitivity to the positional information of morphemes inside Chinese compound words and its relationship with word reading

  • Duo Liu
  • Kevin Kien Hoa Chung
  • Yimin Zhang
  • Zheng Lu


The purpose of the present study was to investigate developmental differences in lexical processing and sensitivity to the positional information of constituent morphemes with reference to Chinese word-reading ability. One hundred mainland Chinese children (50 s graders and 50 third graders) and 22 high school students were tested with a lexical decision task. The primary school children were also tested for Chinese character reading, morphological awareness, phonological awareness, and non-verbal intelligence. We found that although both primary school children and high school students performed worse in the reversed condition (i.e., the pseudo-words were created by reversing the order of the two characters in real Chinese words) than in the real (i.e., real Chinese compound words) and random conditions (i.e., the pseudo-words were constructed by randomly combining the characters in the reversed condition), the performances of high school students in the reversed condition were closer to their performances in the other two conditions. Correlational analyses conducted on the primary school children revealed that the responses of second- and third-grade children on the lexical decision task were moderately correlated with their Chinese character reading. We also found that, after controlling for age and non-verbal IQ, the reaction time difference between the real and reversed conditions significantly predicted Chinese character reading. The results were discussed by exploring the nature of the lexical decision task, the sensitivity of Chinese children to the positional information of morphemes inside compound words, and the association of such sensitivity with their word-reading performance.


Lexical processing Pseudo-word Positional information 



This research was partly supported by the Internal Research Grant of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (Project code: R3318) to Duo Liu. Thanks to all research helpers, the children and their parents for their participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duo Liu
    • 1
  • Kevin Kien Hoa Chung
    • 1
  • Yimin Zhang
    • 2
  • Zheng Lu
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Special Education and CounselingThe Hong Kong Institute of EducationTai PoHong Kong
  2. 2.Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Shanghai Academy of Social ScienceShanghaiChina

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