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Cracking the Chinese orthography : towards a framework for assessing interventions in lexical acquisition

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Title:Cracking the Chinese orthography : towards a framework for assessing interventions in lexical acquisition
Authors:Child, Warren Daniel
lexical acquisition
psychometric model
Date Issued:May 2012
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2012]
Abstract:Attaining a critical mass of vocabulary and character knowledge poses the greatest challenge to foreign leaners of Chinese wishing to achieve independent reading ability. Curricula that work well for simpler script systems fail to address additional complexities in the Chinese orthography, resulting in a significantly steeper learning curve.
To better understand how to moderate this learning curve, this study analyzes the Chinese writing system from multiple perspectives. In the process, the study articulates lexical acquisition goals, identifies mandatory and potential subcomponents of Chinese lexical acquisition, assesses past and current reading theory, explores relevant facets of information processing theory, and reexamines critical components of memory theory. Next, using insights from these multiple perspectives, this study identifies relevant psychometric variables, posits that all interventions and environmental factors fall under one of two categories, and identifies separate components of memorability.
The subcomponents of lexical acquisition constitute types of data that must, or can, be exploited during the teaching process. The categorization of interventions makes it possible to group positive and negative factors of acquisition into relatively scaled components. The psychometric variables constitute important yardsticks of the acquisition process. And the identification of separate components of memorability enables one to assess their relative contributions toward the acquisition of any given lexical target. Taken together, the acquisition subcomponents, intervention categories, psychometric variables, and components of memorability provide the underlying foundation for a pragmatic psychometric model oriented to testing interventions in lexical acquisition.
As a partial demonstration of how this model can be applied to assessing interventions in lexical acquisition, two experiments were conducted. In terms of the framework presented, the experiments tested the effect of enhancing the extrinsic component of memorability for two acquisition subcomponents (association and discrimination) at the intracharacter level.
In the first experiment, enhancing intracharacter understanding of semantic components showed little immediate effect compared to the control data, but increased retention significantly one week later. This suggests that enhancing extrinsic memorability by providing semantic associations to the recurring elements alters the slope of the forgetting curve. As evidenced by recall speeds, it appears to do this by strengthening the encoding while altering the retrieval mechanism.
In the second experiment, learning the readings of character phonetics and then learning groups of characters sharing those phonetics enhanced retention for character readings relative to the control. There was also a strong correlation between phonetic consistency within the character groups and correct reading recall. This suggests that enhancing discrimination of elements and focusing on their associated readings also aids in retention. Again, an altered retrieval mechanism appears to contribute to the enhanced retention.
Both experiments suggest that altering the processes of perception, attention, encoding, and retrieval creates alternative paths to recall in the network of lexical data stored in the brain. What remains to be done is the establishment of more precise scalars for the various types of amplification and attenuation, and to assess the effect of negative factors such as interference when new data is introduced at regular intervals.
Eventually, this should make it possible to fine-tune the manner by which Chinese character and vocabulary data are learned, and to optimize curricula accordingly.
Description:Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese)

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