Chinese as a second language reading: lexical access and text comprehension

Authored by: Helen H. Shen

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Second Language Acquisition

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138946606
eBook ISBN: 9781315670706
Adobe ISBN:


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Reading comprehension includes two major dimensions: lexical access and text comprehension. This chapter surveys Chinese L2 studies addressing the issues of realization of lexical access and text comprehension. As a nonalphabetic writing system, Chinese possesses unique linguistic characteristics, such as pictographic origin, no direct sound to spelling correspondence, and no word separation in a written text. These unique features require different cognitive processing mechanisms and strategies from reading alphabetic writing. From the learners’ perspective, their development of vocabulary knowledge, morphological awareness, word segmentation skills, first language experience, use of learning strategies, and L2 language proficiency all play roles in successful reading comprehension. From the instructional perspective, adopting an appropriate curriculum model and providing suitable instructional approaches that consider both the text and learner’s variations facilitate students’ reading acquisition.

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