New evidence from eye-tracking on how young adult Chinese speakers process Chinese and English words when reading

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Shu Mei Gloria Chwo


Past research reveals the relevance of two routes for reading word recognition (direct/graphic and indirect/grapho-phonological). Choice of route is especially influenced by the writing system of the language, how word reading is taught, and for second languages, the first language processing route and level of second language exposure. However, the continuing effect of early instruction at a later age, and its impact relative to the other factors, have not been fully revealed. This study, therefore, examined those factors in L1 Chinese and L2/L3 English reading by university students in Hong Kong and Taiwan, exploiting the fact that early reading instruction is in both languages predominantly 'whole word' in Hong Kong versus 'phonic' in Taiwan. University participants in Hong Kong and Taiwan responded to a true/false judgment task using sentences containing contextually incongruent words that were phonologically or graphically similar to contextually congruent words. Accuracy and eye-tracking data were gathered. Only writing system effect was significant: the route favoured by the writing system prompted differential fixation time on the target word, and differential accuracy (F= 10.94, p=.004, partial eta squared=.354). The lack of enduring word reading instruction effect suggests that teachers need not limit themselves exclusively to either phonics or whole word instruction.

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Chwo, S. M. G. (2022). New evidence from eye-tracking on how young adult Chinese speakers process Chinese and English words when reading. Interdisciplinary Research Review, 17(1), 1–9. Retrieved from
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