Contributions of Morphological Awareness to Adult L2 Chinese Word Meaning Inferencing

Sihui Echo Ke, Keiko Koda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This study examined the contributions of morphological awareness (MA) to second language (L2) word meaning inferencing in English-speaking adult learners of Chinese (N = 50). Three research questions were posed: Are L2 learners sensitive to the morphological structure of unknown multi-character words? Does first language (L1) MA contribute to L2 MA over and above L2 linguistic knowledge? Does L2 MA contribute to L2 word meaning inference over and above L1 MA and L2 linguistic knowledge? These questions were investigated through the use of a set of experimental and paper-and-pencil measurements of the aforementioned L1 and L2 reading subskills and L2 linguistic knowledge, as well as working memory. Several significant results were found. The L2 learners were sensitive to the morphological structure of multi-character words and more successful in guessing the meanings of novel words containing affixoids and familiar bases. L1 MA was found to transfer and facilitate the development of L2 MA over and above L2 linguistic knowledge. Additionally, L2 MA contributed to L2 word meaning inferencing indirectly through L2 linguistic knowledge. The discussion focuses on the intralingual and interlingual relationships among L1 MA, L2 MA, L2 linguistic knowledge, and L2 word meaning inferencing in adult L2 reading development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-755
Number of pages14
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our sincere thanks also go to G. Richard Tucker, Charles A. Perfetti, and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh for their comments and feedback on our research. We would like to acknowledge, as well, the internal and external funding support that has helped to enhance this research: the CMU Modern Languages Dietrich College Dissertation Completion Fellowship, and the Language Learning Dissertation Grant. Last, we are also indebted to the students and colleagues who have helped with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
©2017 The Modern Language Journal


  • Chinese
  • morphological awareness
  • second language
  • word meaning inferencing
  • word properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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