A database for investigating the logographeme as a basic unit of writing Chinese

Hoi Ming Lui, Man Tak Leung, Sam Po Law, Suk Yee Roxana Fung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Chinese script is non-alphabetic and a Chinese graph is basically syllabic which may consist of phonetic and semantic radicals with no representation of phonemes. The logographeme, a unit smaller than a radical, has been suggested to be the basic unit of Chinese writing based on data collected on people with aphasia. To better understand the role of logographemes in Chinese writing development, a data corpus of logographemes based on characters appearing in primary school textbooks is established. Logographemes are analysed in terms of features that are believed to influence writing development. A total of 249 logographemes were identified: 151 logographemes with no meaning and sound (NMS), 84 logographemes with both sound and meaning which could also stand alone to serve as a character (SA) and 14 logographemes with meaning only (MO). At each grade, the frequencies of NMS logographemes were relatively lower than those of SA and MO logographemes, and the frequencies of SA and MO logographemes were similar; 94% of logographemes were present in the characters taught to grade one students. Students learnt all the pronounceable logographemes by grade three, while they finished all the logographemes without sound until grade six. Characters with left-right, top-bottom and enclosing configurations constituted about 94% of all single-unit characters acquired in primary school years. Statistics derived from the data corpus regarding these features across grades enable us to make specific predictions about stages of literacy development and suggestions for investigation into processes involved in character production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-18
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • Chinese dysgraphia
  • Chinese orthography
  • Database of Chinese characters
  • Logographeme
  • Writing development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Research and Theory
  • Medicine(all)


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