Publication Date

Spring 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jie Zhang (Director), Antony D. Norman, Paul Fischer, and Xiaoxia Huang

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This dissertation explored the acquisition of word spellings (orthographic learning) and word meanings (incidental word learning) during reading in adult nonnative Chinese speakers. Two studies were designed for this dissertation. In Study One, 45 Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) learners at intermediate and advanced proficiency levels participated and completed a character learning experiment in a self-teaching paradigm. Results indicate that CFL learners were able to use the phonetic regularity and semantic transparency of radicals to learn the spellings and pronunciations of new characters after limited exposures to the characters in a story context. In Study Two, 72 CFL learners at novice, intermediate, and advanced proficiency levels were asked to choose the meanings of unfamiliar words presented either in isolation or in sentence context. Results show that CFL learners were more able to infer word meanings in context than in isolation, and such lexical inference ability improved with increasing Chinese proficiency levels. The findings of this dissertation reveal the underlying mechanism of orthographic learning and incidental word learning and yield implications for instruction of Chinese as a foreign language in adult learners.


Chinese Studies | Language and Literacy Education | Reading and Language