BECOMING SCHOOL-LITERATE IN CHINA: HISTORICAL, SEMIOTIC AND INTERACTIONAL ANALYSES OF YUWEN TEXTS

Zhang, Bette Ray Bin (2007). BECOMING SCHOOL-LITERATE IN CHINA: HISTORICAL, SEMIOTIC AND INTERACTIONAL ANALYSES OF YUWEN TEXTS PhD Thesis, School of Education, University of Queensland.

       
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Author Zhang, Bette Ray Bin
Thesis Title BECOMING SCHOOL-LITERATE IN CHINA: HISTORICAL, SEMIOTIC AND INTERACTIONAL ANALYSES OF YUWEN TEXTS
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Peter Freebody
Abstract/Summary The research reported in this thesis began with a curiosity about the contents of the reading materials that Chinese students are given in their first year of formal schooling, and with the notion that reading, literacy and yuwen (literally meaning language-and-literature) are not equivalent. It examines the constructions of “the literate person” in various social and cultural milieux. In the West, reading has traditionally been treated as an essential and objective phenomenon, a set of individualised cognitive abilities, technical skills, with cultural variations. To counter this view, literacy oriented theories, approaches, and pedagogies have argued for and documented the fact that literacy activities are cultural phenomena, pertinent to institutional practice and social order (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Luke & Freebody, 1997; Street, 1984). This embedded-ness of literacy activities has often been observed in anthropology-oriented studies. In this thesis, the embedded-ness of literacy activities (events) in social macrostructures is observed from the construction of Chinese subject yuwen, and documented from the first year school reading textbooks, yuwen texts. This research first demonstrates that constructions of the school subject of reading in China involve a discursive practice resulting in a change away from the centuries-long Confucian texts, toward literary texts in the invented “vernacular”, putonghua. Reading as a situated social practice in current social context is then examined in the site of the two first year Chinese yuwen textbooks in use nationally. Beginning school reading materials are seen as venues for and documentations of the processes of literacy activities, through which versions of social reality and “the school-literate” are constructed (Baker & Freebody, 1989a; Luke, 1988). By applying detailed semiotic and semantic analysis of social reality, and by applying membership categorisation analysis to the social interactions displayed in the text corpus, this research shows that the Chinese first year yuwen texts display characteristics of constructions of explicit thematic topics - thought, science and humanity; hybridity - mixing themes of modern, tradition and revolutions, modes of multiplicity, and hybrid genre – all within a “pedagogical universe”. The argument is developed that these characteristics present Chinese school children with a distinctive textually mediated literate world.

 
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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:22:28 EST