The orthographic and morphemic features of young children's early Chinese character writing

Sing Pui Tikky TO-CHAN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


National Early Literacy Panel (2008) acknowledged that early writing enables the understanding of print knowledge. In learning to write English, being known as a language in syllabic system, young children grasp the early skills related to phonological awareness in the early writing, which are found important as laying the foundation for later reading success (NELP, 2008). Being a different writing system in logographic origin, Chinese, what are the important early skills that are encompassed in the early writing? Are the early skills revealed the same characteristics as the counterpart writing? What are the representations of children's knowledge of writing? What are the important features of children's early writing? A multiple-case study was conducted collecting four young children's character writing samples during the free writing sessions in the 3 preschool years. Children were Cantonese-speaking, wrote traditional Chinese character, and studied at two preschool settings in Hong Kong. Their ages were from 3 to 6 years old. This study employed qualitative data collection methods including classroom observation, video-taping, interviewing and collecting writing samples. Data analysis adopted the inductive and analytical approach in making logical inferences. The corpus of 329 writing samples revealed that children demonstrated individualized and varying forms of unrecognized logographic line writing, approximate and conventional character writing. Results showed that young children are able to write a variety of unconventional and conventional character writings during the preschool years. Orthographic knowledge at two levels was revealed in these varying forms of character writings, namely the component and the stroke levels. From the samples of approximate character writings, children demonstrated the attention to the graphemes and morphemes in configuring character. In the group of approximate character writings, a number of limitations of writing are identified. The results are discussed in relation to the orthographic and morphemic features. The study results enhance the understanding of how young children develop Chinese character writing, and imply for the importance of helping young children learn to write at the stroke and component levels of character writing concurrently. In educational settings, individualized writing instruction would be desirable for young children's development of Chinese character writing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


Chan, S. P. (2015, July). The orthographic and morphemic features of young children's early Chinese character writing. Paper presented at The 6th International Conference on Han Characters Education and Research, Zhejiang International Studies University, Hangzhou, China.


  • 幼兒早期漢字書寫


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