Phonological–semantic flexibility and its role in reading for Chinese kindergarten children

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The present study aimed to examine the role of phonological–semantic flexibility (PSF) in learning to read Chinese. PSF refers to a specific flexibility applied to process the dual linguistic dimensions of words (i.e., sound and meaning). A correlational study (Study 1) was conducted to determine the unique contribution of PSF to three aspects of early reading abilities, including word reading accuracy, word reading fluency and reading comprehension. A total of 190 Chinese kindergarten children were tested on a PSF task and a range of cognitive, linguistic and reading tasks. Results of hierarchical regressions showed that PSF uniquely and significantly contributed to the reading abilities beyond the effects of established cognitive factors (IQ, working memory, inhibition control, and cognitive flexibility) and linguistic factors (syllable skills, morphological skill and vocabulary skill). In the second part, an intervention study (Study 2) was conducted in which two groups of kindergarten children received explicit training on PSF (27 children) and colour–shape flexibility (26 children) respectively. Children in the PSF group showed significantly more improvement in PSF and word reading fluency than the control group. Overall, the present study demonstrated the theoretical and practical importance of PSF for learning to read Chinese. Copyright © 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2419
JournalInfant and Child Development
Early online dateApr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2023


Fong, C. Y.-C. (2023). Phonological–semantic flexibility and its role in reading for Chinese kindergarten children. Infant and Child Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/icd.2419


  • Chinese
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Executive functions
  • Kindergarten
  • Reading


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