Early literacy acquisition in logographic orthographies: Evidence from Chinese and Japanese

Timohiro INOUE*, Mo ZHENG, Kelvin Fai Hong LUI, Catherine MCBRIDE, Connie Suk Han HO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


We examined the cognitive-linguistic predictors of early literacy development and the extent to which they were similar or different across two logographic orthographies (Chinese and Japanese Kanji). Data from 167 Hong Kong Chinese children and 169 Japanese children were used. Children were tested on cognitive-linguistic skills (phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming [RAN], morphological awareness, vocabulary) in Grade 1 and literacy skills (word reading and spelling) in Grades 1 and 2. Whereas the association of phonological awareness with word reading was significantly stronger in Japanese than in Chinese, the association of RAN with word reading was stronger in Chinese. Morphological awareness predicted literacy skills in both languages. Moreover, mediation analysis revealed that the effects of the cognitive-linguistic skills on later literacy skills were fully mediated by early literacy skills, except that morphological awareness directly predicted later spelling in Japanese. These findings suggest that the nature of writing systems can modulate the relationship between cognitive-linguistic skills and literacy skills, even when they share the logographic nature and use the same graphic symbols.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Early online date8 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Collaborative Research Fund (CUHK8/CRF/13G; C4054-17WF to C. McBride, PI), the Theme-based Research Scheme (T44-410/21-N to C. McBride, PC and T. Inoue, Co-PI), and the General Research Fund (Project Number 14617721 to T. Inoue, PI) from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Research Grants Council.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Literacy acquisition
  • Morphological awreness
  • Phonological awareness
  • Rapid naming
  • Morphological awareness


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