Reading and Writing

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 589–605

Chinese character decoding: a semantic bias?

Article

Abstract

The effects of semantic and phonetic radicals on Chinese character decoding were examined. Our results suggest that semantic and phonetic radicals are each available for access when a corresponding task emphasizes one or the other kind of radical. But in a more neutral lexical recognition task, the semantic radical is more informative. Semantic radicals that correctly pertain to character meaning facilitated reaction time in semantic categorization tasks (Experiment #1), while radicals that had no immediately interpretable relation to character meaning had a strong inhibitory effect. Likewise, phonetic radicals that accurately indicated a character’s pronunciation facilitated a homonym recognition task (Experiment #2), whereas phonetic radicals that differed significantly in pronunciation from their character inhibited homonym recognition. In a lexical decision task (Experiment #3) where each character had either a blurred semantic radical or a blurred phonetic radical, the characters with a blurred semantic radical elicited a significantly higher error rate and a trend for longer response times. These results are interpreted to indicate that while educated native Chinese speakers have full use of both semantic and phonetic paths to character decoding, there is a slight predisposition to semantic decoding strategies over phonetic ones indicating that the semantic path is the default means of character recognition.

Keywords

Chinese character processing Chinese reading Dual route Semantic activation Phonological activation 

References

  1. Chan, S. (1999). The Chinese learner: A question of style. Education and Training, 41, 294–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chen, Y. P., Allport, D. A., & Marshall, J. C. (1996). What are the functional orthographic units in Chinese word recognition: The stroke or the stroke pattern? The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, A49, 1024–1043.Google Scholar
  3. Chikamatsu, N. (1996). The effects of L1 orthography on L2 word recognition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 403–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coltheart, M., & Rastle, K. (1994). Serial processing in reading aloud: Evidence for dual-route models of reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 1197–1211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coltheart, M., Rastle, K., Perry, C., Langdon, R., & Ziegler, J. (2001). DRC: A dual route cascaded model of visual word recognition and reading aloud. Psychological Review, 108, 204–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ding, G., Peng, D., & Taft, M. (2004). The nature of the mental representation of radicals in Chinese: A priming study. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 530–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fan, K. Y., Gao, J. Y., & Ao, X. P. (1984). Pronunciation principles of the Chinese character and alphabetic writing scripts. Chinese character reform, 3, 19–22. Beijing: National Commission of Chinese Character Reform (In Chinese).Google Scholar
  8. Feldman, L. B., & Siok, W. W. T. (1999). Semantic radicals contribute to the visual identification of Chinese characters. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 559–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forster, K. I. (1976). Accessing the mental lexicon. In R. J. Wales & E. Walker (Eds.), New approaches to language mechanisms (pp. 257–287). Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  10. Forster, K. I., & Forster, J. C. (2003). DMDX: A Windows display program with millisecond accuracy. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 35, 116–124.Google Scholar
  11. Hoosain, R. (1991). Psycholinguistic implications for linguistic relativity: A case study of Chinese. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Elbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Huang, J. T., & Wang, M. Y. (1992). From unit to Gestalt: Perceptual dynamics in recognizing Chinese characters. In H. C. Chen & O. J. L. Tzeng (Eds.), Language and processing in Chinese (pp. 3–35). Amsterdam, North Holland: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Liu, I. M. (1983). Cueing function of fragments of Chinese characters in reading. Acta Psychologica Taiwanica, 25, 85–90.Google Scholar
  14. Osaka, N. (1992). Size of saccade and fixation duration of eye movements during reading: Psychophysics of Japanese text processing. Journal of the Optical Society of America A: Optics, Image Science and Vision, 9, 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Peng, R. X. (1982). A preliminary report on statistical analysis of the structure of Chinese characters. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 14, 385–390.Google Scholar
  16. Perfetti, C. A., Liu, Y., & Tan, L. H. (2005). The lexical constituency model: Some implications of research on Chinese for general theories of reading. Psychological Review, 112, 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Perfetti, C. A., & Tan, L. H. (1998). The time course of graphic, phonological, and semantic activation in Chinese character identification. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 24, 101–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Perfetti, C. A., Zhang, S., & Berent, I. (1992). Reading in English and Chinese: Evidence for a universal phonological principle. In R. Frost & L. Katz (Eds.), Orthography, phonology, morphology, and meaning (pp. 227–248). North Holland: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pine, N., Huang, P., & Song, H. R. (2003). Decoding strategies used by Chinese primary school children. Journal of Literacy Research, 35, 777–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Plaut, D. C., McClelland, J. L., Siedenberg, M. S., & Patterson, K. (1996). Understanding normal and impaired word reading: Computational principles in quasi-regular domains. Psychological Review, 103, 56–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shen, D., & Forster, K. (1999). Masked phonological priming in reading Chinese words depends on the task. Language and Cognitive Processes, 14, 429–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shu, H., & Anderson, R. C. (1997). Role of radical awareness in the character and word acquisition of Chinese children. Reading Research Quarterly, 32, 78–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Shu, H., Meng, X. Z., Chen, X., Luan, H., & Cao, F. (2005). The subtypes of developmental dyslexia in Chinese: Evidence from three cases. Dyslexia, 11, 311–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Siedenberg, M. S., & McClelland, J. L. (1989). A distributed, developmental model of word recognition and naming. Psychological Review, 96, 523–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Taft, M., & Zhu, X. (1997). Submorphemic processing in reading Chinese. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23, 761–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tan, L. H., Hoosain, R., & Siok, W. W. T. (1996). Activation of phonological codes before access to character meaning in written Chinese. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Learning Memory and Cognition, 22, 865–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Taylor, I., & Taylor, M. M. (1983). The psychology of reading. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Weekes, B. S., Chen, M. J., & Yin, W.-G. (1997). Anomia without dyslexia in Chinese. Neurocase, 3, 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zhou, X., & Marslen-Wilson, W. (2000). The relative time course of semantic and phonological activation in reading Chinese. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 26, 1245–1265.Google Scholar
  30. Zhou, X., Marslen-Wilson, W., Taft, M., & Shu, H. (1999). Morphology, orthography, and phonology in reading Chinese compound words. Language and Cognitive Processes, 14, 525–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Communications 302University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science & NeuroscienceUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations