Chinese Compound Processing in Sentences with Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

  • Author / Creator
    Wang, Guangting
  • Due to the uniqueness of Chinese orthographic features and the pervasiveness of compounding in modern Chinese, psycholinguistic research in the past decades has shown great interest in the visual recognition of Chinese compound words. Models of compound processing make different predictions about whether compounds have whole-word representations, whether compound words and even characters are initially decomposed and recognized on the basis of their morphemic subunits, and at what point the meanings associated with these units come into play. Clearly, the debate is unresolved. The research presented in this thesis aims at contributing to this area of inquiry through a series of experiments addressing the reading of Chinese compounds. The present dissertation reports four naming experiments (with in all 12 sub-experiments) , three of which manipulated different situations in which Chinese compound words are read: one in which two constituent characters are presented on the same line, one in which they are split across two lines, and one in which the order of the constituents is reversed to form a semantically different word, and the fourth one extended compounding from compound words to compound characters. For each of these situations, the exposure duration in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) of the compound was either 100ms, 200ms, or 500ms. Subsequently, a stimulus potentially related to the compound was presented on the computer screen. Participants were asked to read this target word out loud. The naming latencies were recorded, and entered as response variable into a mixed-effects regression model with the lexical properties (such as frequency, character complexity and character family size) and experimental factors (exposure duration, presentation type) as predictors. In the first three experiments on compound word processing, significant effects of the frequency of the compound prime word were observed for the naming latencies to the target word for the shortest exposure duration (100 ms). Interestingly, the sign of the frequency effect depended on whether the target word was morphologically related or unrelated to the compound prime. Facilitation was present in the related condition, but inhibition in the unrelated condition, indicating that this frequency effect is semantic in nature. This pattern persisted even when the two constituent characters were split over two lines. Comparison of the results between short and longer RSVP presentation rates (i.e. 100ms versus 200ms and 500ms) showed that the compound frequency effect was subject to fast decay: it was present for a 100ms exposure duration, but absent for 200ms and 500ms exposure durations. This suggests the semantic priming effect is subject to fast decay in short-term memory (STM). Finally, we did not obtain any evidence that naming a component of a compound character or an unrelated character would be interpreted with reference to the meaning of the preceding prime compound character (Experiment 4), a finding that is very different from what emerged for two-character compound primes and single-character targets (Experiments 1, 2 and 3). This suggests that the components of single characters, read out loud after presentation of the prime sentence, are processed as semantically void, purely orthographic parts of characters, comparable to letters in English words. Taken together, my findings provide evidence for rapid access to the meanings of compounds read in sentential context, for fast decay of these meanings, and for the importance of contextual integration in short-term memory.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Benjamin Tucker (Linguistics)
    • Harald Baayen (Linguistics)
    • Antti Arppe (Linguistics)
    • James Myers (Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Chung Cheng University)
    • Xiaoting Li (East Asian Studies)