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Cognitive processing in non alphabetic languages
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Cognitive processing in non alphabetic languages



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  • 1. Cognitive Processing in Non- Alphabetic Languages Joseph Tinkham
  • 2. Background ● approximately 1.2 billion native speakers worldwide ● Chinese is further subdivided into 12 different dialects, each of which share the same written language, but differ in pronunciation ○ Even the main Chinese dialect, Mandarin, has more speakers world-wide than both Spanish and English combined
  • 3. Writing System● The orthographic system of the Chinese writing system is made up of 4 different levels:  ○ strokes, or the individual lines;   ○ radicals, or simple semantic and phonetic characters;   ○ characters, or complex, multi-radical characters;  ○ and words, consisting of multiple characters● Morphosyllabic language, meaning that each character is both a morpheme and a syllable ● Compared with most alphabetic systems, Chinese does not use spacing to separate words
  • 4. Character Composition● Chinese characters are generally composed of several radicals and give some clue as to semantic and phonetic composition of the character● radicals are then arranged into various positions (e.g. left, right, top, bottom), which distinguish them from other characters with similar or the same radicals ○ similar to English words that share the same letters ○ e.g. Dog and God● positional specificity in radical representation is how two characters with the same radicals but in reverse positions (top-bottom and bottom-top) are not confusable● radicals are represented in lexical memory separately of each other
  • 5. Character Composition continued● Research has found that simple and complex characters are processed on different orthographic levels and that radicals are processed similarly both when they are simple characters and when they are part of a complex character● Research also suggests that position is a significant characteristic in processing radicals
  • 6. Cognitive Processes● Research found that characters and words are both important in reading Chinese, but processing characters are likely important because it affects how words are processed● Researchers found that both the no spacing and word spacing conditions produces shorter reading times than the character and non word spacing conditions● The perceptual span to the left and right of a fixation while reading Chinese is 1 character to the left and 2 to 3 characters to the right. For English,  the perceptual span to the left and right of a fixation is 3 to 4 letters to the left and 14-15 letters to the right. Average saccade lengths for Chinese readers is about 2.6 characters,
  • 7. Bilingual Language Development● In English speakers, morphological awareness is thought to develop when a child is aware of and can manipulate suffixes. However, an important element of morphological awareness in Chinese languages is radical awareness, which is the awareness of semantic and phonetic radicals and the ability to use semantic radicals to complete a sentence without knowing that specific character ○ research found morphological awareness improved with age in Chinese native speakers
  • 8. Bilingual Language Development cont.● Past research on bilinguals knowledge of additional languages aid language acquisition in other languages, however,  a study hypothesized that if the two languages had different writing systems, this benefit would fail to be present● Research found that the bilingual English-Cantonese group showed no benefit from knowing English when they began learning Cantonese, but the bilingual Cantonese- English group showed a benefit from knowing Cantonese when they began learning English. ○ thought to be transfer of morphological awareness skills, useful in both languages ○ also differences in education systems thought to
  • 9. References:Bai, X., Yan, G., Liversedge, S. P., Zang, C., & Rayner, K. (2008). Reading spaced and unspaced Chinese text: Evidence fromeye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34 (5), 1277-1287.Bialystok, E., McBride-Chang, C., & Luk, G. (2005). Bilingualism, language proficiency, and learning to read in two writingsystems. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(4), 580-590.Ding, G., Peng, D. & Taft, M. (2004). The nature of the mental representation of radicals in Chinese: A priming study.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 30 (2), 530-539.Goldstein, E. B. (2008a). Attention. In Goldstein, E.B (Eds.), Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, andEveryday Experience, Second Edition (120-123). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Goldstein, E. B. (2008b). Language. In Goldstein, E.B (Eds.), Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, andEveryday Experience, Second Edition (360-368). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Retrieved from, C., Shu, H. Zhou, A., Wat, C.P, & Wagner, R.K. (2003). Morphological awareness uniquely predicts youngchildrens Chinese character recognition. Journal of Educational Psychology. 95(4), 743-751.McKenzie, R. (January 17, 2006). How hard is it to learn Chinese? BBC News. Retrieved from, H., & Imai, M. (2007). Scope of linguistic influence: Does a classifier system alter object concepts? Journal ofExperimental Psychology. 136(3), 485-501.Yang, J., Wang, S., Xu, Y., and Rayner, K. (2009). Do Chinese readers obtain preview benefit from word n + 2? Evidence