Chinese Semantic Component

Morphologically transparent characters are those where the semantic component such as 金([jīn], metal) provides a clue to the meaning.

For example, the morphologically transparent character 銅([tóng], copper) can be figured out more easily than the opaque character 錯([cuò], error), in which the relation between the meaning of the semantic component 金([jīn], metal) and that of the character 錯([cuò], error) is not obvious. In the same study, like the regularity effect of phonetic component, this morphological transparency effect was relatively small when the characters were familiar to the children. On morphologically transparent characters with familiar components, better readers got higher scores than poorer readers. This means that the better readers were not only more knowledgeable about specific characters but could also interpret novel characters based on their semantic components. Evidently, the children as young as Third Graders were able to realize the information provided by the semantic components, integrate the information with the meanings of the characters, and successfully infer the meanings of unknown characters. In this dissertation, this is referred to as another kind of part-whole relation.

Instruction of semantic components. Morphological awareness instruction was implemented in some of the classes, in which the teachers analyzed the relationship between the semantic component and the meaning of the character, and between the phonetic component and the character sound, and also explained the base and extended meaning and compared its meanings used in the different words. in both grade levels, this instructional intervention significantly increased children’s performance on tasks directly related to awareness of semantic component and on reading literacy measures that focused at the character or word levels. For instance, after the instruction, the children were found to perform significantly better on the task of choosing from four written characters such as 情([qíng], feeling), 清([qīng], clear), 請([qǐng], invite) and 青([qīng],green) to fill in a sentence presented orally such as “心[qíng]很好(The heartfelt “qíng” is very good).” This suggests that the morphological instruction has a significant improvement in the children’s awareness of the semantic component.

As noted previously, young children have acquired knowledge about semantic components and phonetic components. But, in order to learn this, they should have more primarily learned the way of how to look at the signs or the written forms of the characters, i.e., the orthography. This concerns whether children recognize the specific orthographic features in the way that the characters are written as such. More sophisticatedly, this is about children’s way of seeing the compositions of the characters, i.e., how the characters are composed from the components and in what ways children can make sense of the compositions of the characters.