ISSN 1002-1027  CN 11-2952/G2

Acta scientiarum naturalium Universitatis Pekinensis

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The Relative Strength of Phonological Activation between Complex Characters and Their Phonetic Radicals in Reading Chinese

ZHANG Yaxu1, ZHOU Xiaolin1, SHU Hua2, XIANG Hongbing3   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing, 100871; 2Department of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875; 3Language Information Processing Center, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijin
  • Received:2002-01-10 Online:2003-01-20 Published:2003-01-20

Abstract: Most Chinese characters are complex characters that are composed of a semantic radical on the left and a phonetic radical on the right. The phonetic radicals can provide cues for the pronunciation of whole characters. Regular characters contain phonetic radicals that are pronounced in the same way as the whole characters, while irregular characters have phonetic radicals in different pronunciations. Subjects in this study were asked to name whole characters or their phonetic radicals when the regularity of complex characters was manipulated. Regularity effects in these two tasks were examined to investigate the competition between phonological activation of the irregular whole characters and their phonetic radicals. It was found that for high frequency irregular complex characters, phonological activation of whole characters interfered with that of their phonetic radicals, but not vice versa. For low frequency irregular complex characters, phonological activation of complex characters and their phonetic radicals interfered with each other, although the effect in naming radicals was stronger than the effect in naming whole characters. These results suggest that phonological activation of high frequency complex characters is faster than the activation of their phonetic radicals. Moreover, low frequency complex characters have higher level of phonological activation than their phonetic radicals, although these two phonological representations may have been accessed at the same time.