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Subsyllabic unit preference in young Chinese children

  • MIN WANG (a1) and CHENXI CHENG (a1)


We reported three experiments investigating subsyllabic unit preference in young Chinese children. In Experiment 1, a Chinese sound similarity judgment task was designed in which 48 pair of stimuli varied in terms of shared subsyllabic units (i.e., vowel, body, rime, onset-coda). Grade 1 Chinese-speaking monolingual children judged pairs with shared body units most similar. In Experiment 2, the sound similarity judgment tasks in Chinese and English were tested on a group of Chinese–English bilingual children. Grade 1 children judged shared-body pairs most similar in Chinese and shared-rime pairs most similar in English. In both experiments, preschool children showed a similar pattern of performance to the Grade 1 children in the Chinese task. In Experiment 3, sound matching tasks in Chinese and English were designed. Grade 1 bilingual children again showed a preference for matching body over rime in Chinese, and for matching rime over body in English. Taken together, these results support the hypotheses that the subsyllabic unit preference in Chinese is driven by the spoken language properties, and that there exist cross-language differences in processing spoken syllables.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Min Wang, Department of Human Development, 3304P Benjamin Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail:


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