ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (11): 1661-1670.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01661

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The Role of the Character Graphic Information in Different Pinyin Processing Tasks

CHEN Lin1; ZHONG Luojin2; LENG Ying3; MO Lei4   

  1. (1 School of Chinese as a Second Language, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China) (2 School of Professional Development and Research on Primary and Secondary Education, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China) (3 School of Educational Science, Nan Tong University, Nantong 226007, China) (4 Center for Studies of Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
  • Received:2013-03-19 Published:2014-11-25 Online:2014-11-25
  • Contact: MO Lei, E-mail:


Because pronunciation information conveyed by Chinese characters is very limited, Pinyin represents a modern phonic transcription system of Chinese characters and assists Chinese children and foreigners in learning pronunciation of characters. Pinyin promotes the connections between the character graphic and phonological information. Over the past few years, a growing body of research has compared the alphabetic Pinyin and logographic characters to investigate whether the word forms affect brain processing during reading. However, few studies have directly examined whether while reading Pinyin, the corresponding orthography of the character becomes activated. The current study focused on the activation of character graphic representation during Pinyin processing. Four experiments were carried out. Experiment 1 and 2 explored the activation of character orthography in an automatic Pinyin reading task whereas Experiment 3 and 4 examined character activation during a Pinyin semantic judgment task. Experiment 1 and 2 employed a Stroop-like priming task. The Pinyin prime word was presented for 300ms, which was subsequently replaced by the target character. The target character would stay on the screen for 2000ms or until a color decision response was made. Sixty-four characters were chosen as targets. Half had similar graphic to prime characters, which were presented in Pinyin and the other half did not. In Experiment 3 and 4, the Pinyin prime word was exposed until participants made a semantic judgment response, followed immediately by a target character. In contrast to previous three experiments, Experiment 4 employed a naming task in which participants named the target character. The primes and targets were identical to those in Experiment 1. The effect of target type was observed only in the Pinyin semantic judgment task. The character graphic priming effect was inhibitory when the target characters had a similar graphic to the prime characters, which were presented in Pinyin, suggesting that graphic information was activated during Pinyin semantic processing and interfered with the judgment of similar target characters. It underscored the potential importance of the character graphic information in Pinyin semantic processing. In contrast, the inhibitory effect disappeared in the automatic Pinyin reading task, indicating that character orthography might not be activated during Pinyin automatic processing. These findings suggested that the involvement of character graphic information in Pinyin processing likely depends on the task demands. The activation of the character graphic information during Pinyin semantic processing supported the interaction of lexical constituents.

Key words: Pinyin, semantic processing, automatic processing, Graphic