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Word recognition in the parafovea: An eye movement investigation of Chinese reading

Jinmian Yang, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Chinese is a logographic writing system that drastically differs from alphabetic scripts in many important aspects. Thus, the nature of parafoveal processing in reading Chinese may be different from that in reading alphabetic languages. Here, four eye-tracking experiments using the boundary display change paradigm (Rayner, 1975) were conducted to explore the role of high level information, like semantic and plausibility information, in the parafovea for Chinese readers. Experiments 1 and 2 used two-character words that can have the order of their component characters reversed, and still be lexical units as target words. Readers received a parafoveal preview of a target word that was either (1) identical to the target word, (2) a reversed word that was the target word with the order of its characters reversed, or (3) a control word. The results indicated that fixation durations on the target words were comparable in the identical and the reverse preview condition when the reversed preview word was plausible; however, fixation durations were longer in the reverse than the identical preview condition when the reverse preview word was implausible. This plausibility preview effect was independent of whether the reverse preview word shared the meaning with the target word or not. Moreover, a plausible reverse preview word provided more facilitation to the processing of the target word than a plausible control preview word, since the former one had orthographic overlap with the target word. Experiment 3 tested whether plausible preview words would yield a semantic preview benefit. That is, the question was whether a semantically related & plausible preview word would provide more benefit than a semantically unrelated & plausible preview word to the processing of the target word. However, such semantic preview effect was only marginally significant by participants. In addition, a plausibility preview effect was revealed in Experiment 3. Furthermore, Experiment 4 found that contextual information could affect word recognition in the parafovea: Chinese readers were more likely to encode a plausible preview word than an implausible preview word. Collectively, these experiments indicated that the plausibility of a preview word has an important role in reading Chinese.

Subject Area

Cognitive psychology|Language

Recommended Citation

Yang, Jinmian, "Word recognition in the parafovea: An eye movement investigation of Chinese reading" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3427613.