Faculty of Education, Kanazawa University Fuzoku Junior High., Kanazawa University

1. Introduction

For people who do not have the Chinese characters in their native tongue the characters constitute a barrier for the acquisition of the Chinese and Japanese. According to some estimates, there are about 50000 Chinese characters. Foreign students in Japanese universities need to be able to read about 1000 characters in daily life, and possibly more to be able to read texts in their area of specialization. Characters are complex, many requiring over 20 strokes for a single character. This complexity causes difficulties not only in reading, but also in writing. The order of strokes in a character is called HITSU-JUN in Japanese and BI-SHUN in Chinese. In Japan, a standard system of stroke orders is used for writing education. This system is described in " HITUJUN SHIDO NO TEBIKI" ( Guidebook of Stroke Order Education ). It is generally believed that the stroke orders shown in this book developed over a long period of history and were determined by legibility, ease of writing, ease of learning, tradition and so on. The prescribed orders seem to be effective. Foreign students must learn these orders, which requires a great deal of study. We think it is possible to reduce the burden of study somewhat by extracting important elements and rules, and also through systematization of learning sequences. In this study, the stroke orders of " HITUJUN SHIDO NO TEBIKI" are analyzed and systematized by a constructive notation for systematic learning.

2. Method

First, 15 basic stroke patterns are defined. These have been selected from among many types of strokes used in Chinese characters.(fig.1a) Next, the elements are defined . Chinese characters can generally be divided into smaller elements. For example, [GO (meaning: word)] can be divided into [GEN (say)][GO (me)], and [GO (me)] can be divided into [GO (five)][KUCHI (mouth)]. In this study, elements are divided into three categories: existing characters, radicals (elements used to search for a character in a dictionary), and other elements which will be defined in this study. (fig.1b) Next, 14 kinds of direction marks are defined, indicating the order in which strokes are to be written. For example, "E->" means "write from the left element to the right element".(fig.1c) The purpose of our constructive notation is to make it possible to represent the stroke order of any character by using these three types of constructive elements.

There are different levels in the construction of a Chinese character. Six levels are defined in this study. The elements used in the construction of a character at Level-x have themselves been constructed at Level(x-1) or Level(x-2) etc. The level at which only basic stroke patterns are used is called level-1 notation. (fig.2) As one part of this study, we have used a computer to automatically unravel the high level notation into low level notation and to analyze the stroke orders with general tools such as SED.

3. Results

The reduction of the learning load by means of systematic is shown by the learning quantity :

These percentages represent theoretical effects, but are expected to be found in practical use.

Next, the rules of order are as follows. The two orders "E->(left to right) " and "| E" are the ones used most frequently in the 1006 characters examined in this study. "->E" in particular accounts for nearly half of them. The diversity of order types and the frequencies of "| E" and "| P" tend to increase under level-3. Thus, if a student has studied elements from Level-1 to level-3 and knows that the orders over level-4 are usually "left to right" and "top to bottom", then this knowledge is adaptable to nearly any character.

Moreover, the greater number of the strokes which compose Chinese characters(1006) are vertical strokes(|) and horizontal strokes(-). Many of the combinations of two strokes are (-,-) and (-,| ). This observation may be helpful in clarifying the characteristic movement of Chinese writing.

4. Conclusions

Our results show that it is possible to reduce the learning load through a systematic arrangement of the contents of characters and through knowledge of rough rules guiding stroke order. We expect that CAI software for systematic learning (using the proposed notation system) will be very effective in helping foreign students to master Chinese characters.