Journal of Basic Education


2004.第13卷第2期(Vol. 13 No. 2).pp. 23–38


Preschool Children’s Understanding of the Ideographic Structure of Chinese Characters

陳莉莉、郭婉儀(Lily CHAN & Elisa KWOK)




Many parents require young children to copy Chinese characters in order to memorize them. Evidence has been found that the ideographic structure of written Chinese is crucial in learning the characters, and young children are actively engaged in analyzing the ideographic structure in order to learn to read and write. A total of 135 preschool children, aged 3–6 years, were invited to participate in a Chinese character ideographic structure test. They were required to differentiate three types of made-up characters (pictorial pseudo-characters, pseudo-characters with inappropriate positioning of radicals, and pseudo-characters with correct positioning of radicals). It was found that 3-year-old children could not differentiate the three types of made-up characters, 4-and 5-year-olds began to reject the pictorial pseudo-characters and pseudo-characters with inappropriate positioning of radicals, and accept the pseudo-characters with correct positioning of radicals as real words. Older children relied on their knowledge of the Chinese writing system to make their judgment in the task, and demonstrated that they had already learned that shapes and pictures are non-existent in written Chinese.