Integration of reading, writing and typing in learning Chinese words

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Summary table

  • Node Title: Integration of reading, writing and typing in learning Chinese words
  • Researchers: Ying Liu, Charles Perfetti, Qun (Connie) Guan, Suemei Wu, Min Wang
  • PIs: Ying Liu, Charles Perfetti
  • Others who have contributed 160 hours or more:
  • Post-Docs: Connie Guan
  • Graduate Students: Derek Chan
  • Study Start Date Sep 1, 2008
  • Study End Date July 31, 2009
  • LearnLab Site and Courses , CMU Chinese (Classroom and Online)
  • Number of Students: 60
  • Planned Participant Hours for the study: 200
  • Data in the Data Shop: experiments have not started yet


  • Learning second language is a challenge to learners. It is more so for English speakers to learn Chinese. The unique Chinese character writing system and tonal features are fundamentally different from English and thus presents a unique obstacle to learning by English speakers. In our model of reading Chinese, orthography, phonology and meaning are universal constituents and critical knowledge components that should be learned and integrated (Perfetti, Liu, and Tan, 2005).
  • Working together with the CMU Chinese online course, the present project will compare three methods: handwriting, Pinyin based computer typing, and both. Handwriting focuses on the semantic-orthography connections, whereas pinyin typing focuses on the semantic-phonology connection. We hypothesize that the combination of handwriting and pinyin typing can facilitate the integration of constituents. Theoretical framework and practical suggestions will be given on the learning of Chinese handwriting and typing in a modern technology rich learning environment.


Integration; Constituents; Orthography; Phonology; Meaning; Typing; Handwriting

Research question

  • How does integration of language constituents lead to robust learning?
  • Does writing Chinese lead to better integration and more robust Chinese reading?
  • Does the combination of writing and typing lead to more robust learning via better integration?


  • Our previous work on Chinese learning has focused separately on character reading (Liu, Wang, and Perfetti, 2007; Liu, Perfetti, and Wang, 2006), tone perception (Wang et al, under review), syllable production with “talking head” (Massaro, Liu, Chen, & Perfetti, 2006), and cotraining of characters (Liu, Perfetti, and Mitchell, in preparation). Most of above studies were implemented through PSLC Chinese online course, and we will continue to do so for all studies in the present project plan.
  • There have been various findings from above studies. The character reading study found that explicit learning of radicals facilitates the learning of character meaning. Tone perception study found that visual contour plus pinyin provided the best learning curve over one semester. Syllable production study suggested that the synthetic talking head “Bao” provided larger improvement on vowel production than audio only. The cotraining study showed significant advantage for “paired” learning, in which both visual font and auditory sound of a character were presented sequentially in one trial.

Dependent variables

  • Visual recognition (lexical decision, partial character recognition ),handwriting, pinyin visual and auditory skills

Independent variables

  • Integration of handwriting vs. Pinyin typing vs. both



  • General: Instructional Events that integrate receptive and productive components lead to robust representations of Chinese characters.
  • Specific: Lexical constituents are interconnected in skilled performance and that supporting this interconnection during learning leads to more robust learning. Decomposed feature learning aids the acquisition of constituents and partial connections, but robust learning and fluency depend upon constituent integration. We hypothesize that handwriting plus pinyin typing will provide the most robust integration of perception and production in learning Chinese.

Expected Findings

We predict that in the visual identification task, handwriting group will do better than the typing group, whereas typing group will do better in the auditory identification. In the translation task, the group received the combined method will do better than handwriting only group. We predict the above results because visual recognition task depends more on the orthographic information which is more practiced in the handwriting training. Auditory task depends more on the phonological information on the contrary, which is more practiced in the typing training. The translation task depends more on the integrated representation of Chinese words. When trained on both handwriting and typing, both orthographic and phonological routes are made available to the task.


The predicted results will be explained under the general framework of interactive constituency model for learners.

  • Model.jpg