Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Ke, Chuanren

Second Advisor

Otto, Sue

First Committee Member

Shen, Helen

Second Committee Member

Alessi, Steve

Third Committee Member

Polumbaum, Judy


Logographic character handwriting, such as Hanzi in Chinese, Kanji in Japanese, or Hanja in Korean, is notoriously challenging for foreign language learners. Fortunately, computer-assisted learning systems for handwriting are being improved to meet the instructional needs of teachers and learners in foreign language education. However, the effect of computer-assisted language learning in logographic handwriting has never been explored. To anchor the inquiry of the current study, the extensive complementarity approach was adopted, in which SLA research complements L2 instruction by studying the impact of a theory-based instructional method on the learning of an aspect of the L2.

The present study explores the orthographic development at the initial stage of character learning among non-heritage, beginning-level learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) by investigating the effect of Interactionist-instructed mediations on orthographic attrition and maintenance and by examining the relationships among awareness of internal formation sequencing, character recognition and production. Data was collected from 167 first-year CFL students in a Chinese program at a large research university in North America. In phase one, 63 students completed all the six-week lab writing tasks. In phase two, 125 students completed all the end-of-semester correlation tasks in their first semester of learning Chinese.

The findings of the study are multifold. First, by closely examining the roles of input, output, and feedback in the Interactionist model, the results show that, to maximize orthographic retention and reduce attrition, the effect of working memory needs to be taken into consideration in the design of instruction for immediate kinesthetic skill training and for better development of orthographic awareness among CFL non-heritage beginners. Second, the effect of multimedia input enhancements along with handwriting output on reducing variations of character formation in character learning is also significant. Third, the effect of the handwriting feedback is not found to be significant when compared to its counterpart without feedback in computer-assisted handwriting instruction; however, its influence on the participants' writing motivations and learning objectives were observed and addressed in the study. Finally, the CFL non-heritage beginning learners' awareness of internal formation sequencing was found to be correlated with their performance in character recognition and reproduction. The pedagogical implications are discussed.


Chinese characters, Computer-assisted language learning, handwriting, logographic characters, multimedia, orthography


xii, 206 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 174-186).


Copyright 2014 CHEN-HUI TSAI