Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Effect of Handwriting Training on Language Learning among Deaf Children and Their Matched Hearing Peers in China

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Effect of Handwriting Training on Language Learning among Deaf Children and Their Matched Hearing Peers in China

Article excerpt

The lexical quality hypothesis asserts that word-specific memories of orthographic, phonological, and semantic constituents for each word in a reader's vocabulary are a prerequisite for a high level of proficiency in reading and writing (Perfetti, 1992). Within this framework, a high-quality lexical representation is complete and accurate in all three constituents, with strong links in between (Perfetti, 2007). Whether this sound-form-meaning triangle can be solidified in beginning readers who are deaf or hard of hearing has not been examined empirically, however. Furthermore, the lexical constituency model (Perfetti, Liu, & Tan, 2005) also suggests that phonological awareness might be less important than semanticsrelated factors in reading logographic languages such as Chinese, which conveys more meaning than sound.

The phonological structure and other characteristics of writing systems decide the nature of phonological awareness and its relationship with reading (Ching & Nunes, 2015). This, in turn, might suggest a different phonological-orthographic-semantic relationship for nonalphabetic writing systems such as Chinese, compared with alphabetic writing systems such as English. Chinese children who are deaf or hard of hearing often develop relatively weak orthographic awareness with limited phonological awareness (Yang, 2008). Many of them rely on visualspatial and motor-perceptual abilities to recognize the written language. Still, little is known about which pathway leads to better learning.

In schools in China, children who are deaf or hard of hearing are trained with an alphabetic code-that is, renderings in pinyin of the Chinese characters. In classrooms where Chinese Sign Language is the instructional language, the alphabetic code is taught via the Chinese Manual Alphabet, which fingerspells the phonemes (i.e., pinyin) one by one. The Chinese Manual Alphabet refers to the single fingershape, which is based on the Chinese alphabetic code (i.e., pinyin; Yang, 2015). Therefore, the Chinese Manual Alphabet is also called an omnipotent language because it can be used to express any word, regardless of its difficulty or obscurity. It can also be combined with tones to convey the phonological representation of a certain word form. Children in China who are deaf or hard of hearing begin to learn the Chinese Manual Alphabet when they begin attending elementary school. Therefore, school-aged children in China who are deaf or hard of hearing can, generally speaking, type the alphabetic code, that is, the pinyin, of Chinese characters. However, the degree to which the alphabetic code can be learned in combination with handwriting and the extent to which the alphabetic code can be linked to the written form and meaning of Chinese characters are both unknown.

Writing to Learn to Read in Alphabetic Systems

When alphabetic writing is being read, strengthening the phonological constituent and its connection to orthography is especially important to reading success (Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Seidenberg, 2001; Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, & Scanlon, 2004; Ziegler & Goswami, 2005). This does not mean that strengthening the word-specific orthographic representations is not important in English and other alphabetic writing. In fact, phonological decoding may support the establishment of word-specific orthographic representations in alphabetic writing (Share, 1995). Beyond this "bootstrapping" by phonology, more practice at reading serves to make orthographic forms more familiar, and beyond reading experience, writing of words can further refine orthographic forms and provide an opportunity to practice these forms (Bowers, Davis, & Hanley, 2005; Ricketts, Bishop, & Nation, 2009). The body of research exploring writing has grown over the past few years, but the effects of writing have been found to be inconsistent and, on average, small (Bi, Han, & Zhang, 2009; Caramazza & Mahon, 2006; Packard et al. …

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