fMRI evidence for the interaction between orthography and phonology in reading Chinese compound words

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Compound words make up a major part of modern Chinese vocabulary. Behavioral studies have demonstrated that access to lexical semantics of compound words is driven by the interaction between orthographic and phonological information. However, little is known about the neural underpinnings of compound word processing. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we asked participants to perform lexical decisions to pseudohomophones, which were constructed by replacing one or both constituents of two-character compound words with orthographically dissimilar homophonic characters. Mixed pseudohomophones, which shared the first constituent with the base words, were more difficult to reject than non-pseudohomophone non-words. This effect was accompanied by the increased activation of bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), left inferior parietal lobule (IPL), and left angular gyrus. The pure pseudohomophones, which shared no constituent with their base words, were rejected as quickly as non-word controls and did not elicit any significant neural activation. The effective connectivity of a phonological pathway from left IPL to left IFG was enhanced for the mixed pseudohomophones but not for pure pseudohomophones. These findings demonstrated that phonological activation alone, as in the case of the pure pseudohomophones, is not sufficient to drive access to lexical representations of compound words, and that orthographic information interacts with phonology, playing a gating role in the recognition of Chinese compound words. © 2013 Kang, Lee, Sul and Kim.




Zhan, J., Yu, H., & Zhou, X. (2013). fMRI evidence for the interaction between orthography and phonology in reading Chinese compound words. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, (NOV).

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