The Contributions of Segmental and Suprasegmental Information in Reading Chinese Characters Aloud
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The Chinese writing system provides an excellent case for testing the contribution of segmental and suprasegmental information in reading words aloud within the same language. In logographic Chinese characters, neither segmental nor tonal information is explicitly represented, whereas in Pinyin, an alphabetic transcription of the character, both are explicitly represented. Two primed naming experiments were conducted in which the targets were always written characters. When logographic characters served as the primes (Experiment 1), syllable segmental and tonal information appeared to be represented and encoded as an integral unit which in turn facilitated target character naming. When Pinyin served as the primes (Experiment 2), the explicit phonetic representation facilitated encoding of both segmental and suprasegmental information, but with later access to suprasegmental information. In addition, Chinese speakers were faster to name characters than Pinyin in a simple naming task (Experiment 3), suggesting that Pinyin may be read via a phonological assembly route, whereas characters may be read via a lexical route. Taken together, our findings point to the need to consider the contributions of both segmental and suprasegmental information and the time course in the well-established models for reading aloud, as well as the cognitive mechanisms underlying the reading aloud of logographic characters versus alphabetic Pinyin script.
Funding for Open Access provided by the UMD Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.