The multiple pronunciations of Japanese kanji: A masked priming investigation

ArticleinQuarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006) 66(10) · March 2013with 839 Reads
Abstract
English words with an inconsistent grapheme-to-phoneme conversion or with more than one pronunciation ("homographic heterophones"; e.g., "lead"-/lεd/, /lid/) are read aloud more slowly than matched controls, presumably due to competition processes. In Japanese kanji, the majority of the characters have multiple readings for the same orthographic unit: the native Japanese reading (KUN) and the derived Chinese reading (ON). This leads to the question of whether reading these characters also shows processing costs. Studies examining this issue have provided mixed evidence. The current study addressed the question of whether processing of these kanji characters leads to the simultaneous activation of their KUN and ON reading, This was measured in a direct way in a masked priming paradigm. In addition, we assessed whether the relative frequencies of the KUN and ON pronunciations ("dominance ratio", measured in compound words) affect the amount of priming. The results of two experiments showed that: (a) a single kanji, presented as a masked prime, facilitates the reading of the (katakana transcriptions of) their KUN and ON pronunciations; however, (b) this was most consistently found when the dominance ratio was around 50% (no strong dominance towards either pronunciation) and when the dominance was towards the ON reading (high-ON group). When the dominance was towards the KUN reading (high-KUN group), no significant priming for the ON reading was observed. Implications for models of kanji processing are discussed.

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    Four experiments investigated the role of frequency information in compound production by independently varying the frequencies of the first and second constituent as well as the frequency of the compound itself. Pairs of Dutch noun-noun compounds were selected such that there was a maximal contrast for one frequency while matching the other two frequencies. In a position-response association task, participants first learned to associate a compound with a visually marked position on a computer screen. In the test phase, participants had to produce the associated compound in response to the appearance of the position mark, and we measured speech onset latencies. The compound production latencies varied significantly according to factorial contrasts in the frequencies of both constituting morphemes but not according to a factorial contrast in compound frequency, providing further evidence for decompositional models of speech production. In a stepwise regression analysis of the joint data of Experiments 1-4, however, compound frequency was a significant nonlinear predictor, with facilitation in the low-frequency range and a trend toward inhibition in the high-frequency range. Furthermore, a combination of structural measures of constituent frequencies and entropies explained significantly more variance than a strict decompositional model, including cumulative root frequency as the only measure of constituent frequency, suggesting a role for paradigmatic relations in the mental lexicon. • lexical access • morphology • speech production
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