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The Developmental Study of Semantic Radicals’ Consistency Awareness of Primary School Children
Author(s): 
Pages: 1136-1140
Year: Issue:  5
Journal: Psychological Science

Keyword:  semantic radicalconsistency awarenessgrade effect;
Abstract: Semantic-phonetic compounds comprise the vast bulk of Chinese characters. The semantic radicals are related to the meaning of the whole characters, but inferring the whole characters’ meaning from semantic radicals’ meaning is not always widely applicable. There are almost 200 semantic radicals that are commonly used; the accuracy rate of inferring the whole character’s meaning by virtue of semantic radicals can be up to 60%-100%. The consistency of semantic radicals is one of the important characteristics of Chinese characters’ radicals, which manifests the degree to which the whole character’s meaning can be inferred from a semantic radical. Previous studies have revealed that semantic radicals’ consistency affects the whole characters’ processing under many tasks and levels, including lexical decision, single-word semantic category decision and double words semantic category decision. Most of the studies are concerned with the adults’ mental lexicon and processing models. The developmental characteristics of children’s semantic consistency awareness have not been studied yet.The present study was to examine children’s semantic radicals’ developmental characteristics. A total of 99 elementary school students were adopted in the study. Two factors mixed design were used: 4(Grade: Grade3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6) × 4(priming style: R+S+, R+S-, R-S+, R-S-). Children were asked to judge the semantic category consistency between prime words and target words quickly and accurately. The materials included 128 word stimulus pairs and each priming style has 32 word stimulus pairs. The results revealed a signif icant grade difference, a priming style difference and a signif icant interaction between the grade and the priming style on reaction time and error rate. The reaction time became shorter and the error rate became reduced with the development of grade levels. Children in different grades showed different performance under four priming styles. For children in Grade 3, there were no significant differences among four priming styles on reaction time. For children in Grade 4, the reaction time of R-S+ and R-S- were significantly shorter than R+S-. For children in Grade 5, the reaction time of R+S+ and R-S- were significantly shorter than R+S-. For children in Grade 6, the reaction time of R+S+ was shorter than R+S- and R-S+; also, the reaction time of R-S- was shorter than R+S- and R-S+. The tendency of error rate on consistency judgments showed similar performance. We also obtained a clear semantic consistency awareness priming effect by calculating the reaction time differences between two priming conditions.Based on the above findings, the conclusions are:(1) Children’s awareness of semantic radicals is strong with the development of grades. Children in Grade 3 have not acquired the consistency awareness of semantic radicals, children in Grade 4 have acquired preliminary consistency awareness of semantic radicals, and children in Grade 5 have made a great process in consistency awareness of semantic radicals; however, children have not acquired mature semantic radicals’ awareness until Grade 6.(2) The developmental characteristics of semantic radical awareness have a close relationship with the cognitive developmental level of children, language knowledge of the children, and processing strategies. Semantic radicals’ consistency should be taught intentionally.
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