Reading and Writing

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 607–625 | Cite as

The time course of incremental word processing during Chinese reading

  • Junyi Zhou
  • Guojie Ma
  • Xingshan Li
  • Marcus Taft


In the current study, we report two eye movement experiments investigating how Chinese readers process incremental words during reading. These are words where some of the component characters constitute another word (an embedded word). In two experiments, eye movements were monitored while the participants read sentences with incremental words whose first two characters (Experiment 1) or last two characters (Experiment 2) constituted a word (referred to respectively as “head-embedded” and “tail embedded”). Reading times on these words were longer when the frequencies of the embedded words were lower. However, this was only seen on first fixation duration for head-embedded words. These results suggest that embedded words are activated when Chinese readers process incremental words, and that this activation is earlier for a head-embedded word than for a tail-embedded word. These results support a hierarchical model which assumes that the representation for whole word is activated via the representation of its constituent morphemes.


Word processing Eye movements Chinese reading 



This research was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (31571125), and the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Imaging Technology (BAICIT-2016018).


  1. Andrews, S., Miller, B., & Rayner, K. (2004). Eye movements and morphological segmentation of compound words: There is a mouse in mousetrap. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 16(1–2), 285–311. Scholar
  2. Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 390–412. Scholar
  3. Bai, X., Yan, G., Liversedge, S. P., Zang, C., & Rayner, K. (2008). Reading spaced and unspaced Chinese text: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34(5), 1277–1287. Scholar
  4. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). lme4: Linear mixed- effects models using Eigen and S4_. R package version 1.1-7.
  5. Beauvillain, C. (1996). The integration of morphological and whole-word form information during eye fixations on prefixed and suffixed words. Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 801–820. Scholar
  6. Bertram, R., & Hyönä, J. (2003). The length of a complex word modifies the role of morphological structure: Evidence from eye movements when short and long finnish compounds. Journal of Memory and Language, 48(3), 615–634. Scholar
  7. Bowers, J. S., Davis, C. J., & Hanley, D. A. (2005). Automatic semantic activation of embedded words: Is there a “hat” in “that”? Journal of Memory and Language, 52, 131–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chinese Linguistic Data Consortium. (2003). 现代汉语通用词表 [Chinese lexicon] (CLDC-LAC-2003-001). Beijing, China: Tsinghua University, State Key Laboratory of Intelligent Technology and Systems, and Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Automation.Google Scholar
  9. Cui, L., Yan, G., Bai, X., Hyönä, J., Wang, S., & Liversedge, S. P. (2012). Processing of compound-word characters in reading Chinese: An eye-movement-contingent display change study. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 66(3), 527–547. Scholar
  10. Davis, C. J., & Taft, M. (2005). More words in the neighborhood: interference in lexical decision due to deletion neighbors. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12(5), 904–910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, C. J., Perea, M., & Acha, J. (2009). Re(de)fining the orthographic neighborhood: The role of addition and deletion neighbors in lexical decision and reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35(5), 1550–1570. Scholar
  12. Gagné, C. L., & Spalding, T. L. (2009). Constituent integration during the processing of compound words: Does it involve the use of relational structures? Journal of Memory and Language, 60(1), 20–35. Scholar
  13. Huang, C., & Zhao, H. (2007). Chinese word segmentation: A decade review. Journal of Chinese Information Processing, 21(2), 8–19.Google Scholar
  14. Hyönä, J., & Pollatsek, A. (1998). Reading Finnish compound words: Eye fixations are affected by component morphemes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24(6), 1612–1627.Google Scholar
  15. Inhoff, A. W., & Wu, C. (2005). Eye movements and the identification of spatially ambiguous words during Chinese sentence reading. Memory & Cognition, 33, 1345–1356. Scholar
  16. Janssen, N., Bi, Y., & Caramazza, A. (2008). A tale of two frequencies: Determining the speed of lexical access for Mandarin Chinese and English compounds. Language and Cognitive Processes. Scholar
  17. Juhasz, B. J., Starr, M. S., Inhoff, A. W., & Placke, L. (2003). The effects of morphology on the processing of compound words: Evidence from naming, lexical decisions and eye fixations. British Journal of Psychology, 94(Pt 2), 223–244. Scholar
  18. Kuperman, V., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H. (2008). Morphological dynamics in compound processing. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 1089–1132. Scholar
  19. Kuperman, V., Schreuder, R., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H. (2009). Reading polymorphemic Dutch compounds: Toward a multiple route model of lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35(3), 876–895. Scholar
  20. Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2014). lmerTest: Tests for random and fixed effects for linear mixed effect models (lmer objects of lme4 package): R package version 2.0-6.
  21. Li, X., Liu, P., & Rayner, K. (2014). Saccade target selection in Chinese reading. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22(2), 524–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li, X., Rayner, K., & Cave, K. R. (2009). On the segmentation of Chinese words during reading. Cognitive Psychology, 58(4), 525–552. Scholar
  23. Liversedge, S. P., Zang, C., Zhang, M., Bai, X., Yan, G., & Drieghe, D. (2014). The effect of visual complexity and word frequency on eye movements during Chinese reading. Visual Cognition, 22(3–4), 441–457. Scholar
  24. Ma, G., Li, X., & Rayner, K. (2014). Word segmentation of overlapping ambiguous strings during Chinese reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(3), 1046–1059. Scholar
  25. Ma, G., Pollatsek, A., Li, Y., & Li, X. (2017). Chinese readers can perceive a word even when it’s composed of noncontiguous characters. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(1), 158–166. Scholar
  26. McClelland, J. L., & Rumelhart, D. E. (1981). An interactive activation model of context effects in basic findings. Psychological Review, 88, 375–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miwa, K., Libben, G., & Ikemoto, Y. (2017). Visual trimorphemic compound recognition in a morphographic script. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(1), 1–20. Scholar
  28. Perfetti, C. A., & Tan, L. H. (1999). The constituency model of Chinese word identification. In J. Wang, A. W. Inhoff, & H.-C. Chen (Eds.), Reading Chinese script: A cognitive analysis (pp. 115–134). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  29. Pollatsek, A., Hyönä, J., & Bertram, R. (2000). The role of morphological constituents in reading Finnish compound words. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance, 26(2), 820–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pollatsek, A., Bertram, R., & Hyönä, J. (2011). Processing novel and lexicalised Finnish compound words. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 23(7), 795–810. Scholar
  31. R Development Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer software]. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Retrieved from Scholar
  32. Rayner, K., Pollatsek, A., Drieghe, D., Slattery, T. J., & Reichle, E. D. (2007). Tracking the mind during reading via eye movements: Comments on Kliegl, Nuthmann, and Engbert (2006). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136(3), 520–537. Scholar
  33. Taft, M. (1979). Recognition of affixed words and the word frequency effect. The Memory & Cognition, 7(4), 263–272. Scholar
  34. Taft, M. (2003). Morphological representation as a correlation between form and meaning. In E. Assink & D. Sandra (Eds.), Reading complex words (pp. 113–137). Amsterdam: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Taft, M. (2004). Morphological decomposition and the reverse base frequency effect. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 57(4), 745–765. Scholar
  36. Taft, M., & Forster, K. I. (1975). Lexical storage and retrieval of prefixed words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 14(6), 638–647. Scholar
  37. Taft, M., & Forster, K. I. (1976). Lexical storage and retrieval of polymorphemic and polysyllabic words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 15, 607–620. Scholar
  38. Tsang, Y.-K., & Chen, H.-C. (2010). Morphemic ambiguity resolution in Chinese: Activation of the subordinate meaning with a prior dominant-biased context. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(6), 875–881. Scholar
  39. Tsang, Y.-K., & Chen, H.-C. (2013). Morpho-semantic processing in word recognition: Evidence from balanced and biased ambiguous morphemes. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39(6), 1990–2001. Scholar
  40. Tsang, Y.-K., & Chen, H.-C. (2014). Activation of morphemic meanings in processing opaque words. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 6, 1281–1286. Scholar
  41. Wang, C., & Peng, D. (1999). The role of surface frequencies, Cumulative morpheme frequencies, and semantic transparencies in the processing of compound words. Acta Psychologica, 31(3), 2–9.Google Scholar
  42. Weingartner, K. M., Juhasz, B. J., & Rayner, K. (2012). Lexical embeddings produce interference when they are morphologically unrelated to the words in which they are contained: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 24(2), 179–188. Scholar
  43. Wu, A. (2007). Reflection on precedence relationship between word recognition and word segmentation. Journal of Chinese Information Processing, 21(3), 20.Google Scholar
  44. Yan, G., Tian, H., Bai, X., & Rayner, K. (2006). The effect of word and character frequency on the eye movements of Chinese readers. British Journal of Psychology, 97(May), 259–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zang, C., Liang, F., Bai, X., Yan, G., & Liversedge, S. P. (2013). Interword spacing and landing position effects during Chinese reading in children and adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39(3), 720–734. Scholar
  46. Zang, C., Zhang, M., Bai, X., Yan, G., Paterson, K. B., & Liversedge, S. P. (2015). Effects of word frequency and visual complexity on eye movements of young and older Chinese readers. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2006, 1–17. Scholar
  47. Zhou, X., Marslen-Wilson, W., Taft, M., & Shu, H. (1999). Morphology, orthography, and phonology reading Chinese compound words. Language and Cognitive Processes, 14(5–6), 525–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junyi Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guojie Ma
    • 3
  • Xingshan Li
    • 1
  • Marcus Taft
    • 4
  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Physical Education and Sport ScienceFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  3. 3.Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Behavior and Cognitive Neuroscience, School of PsychologyShaanxi Normal UniversityXi’anChina
  4. 4.School of PsychologyUniversity of NSWSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations