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Logo of iperceptioni-Perception
Iperception. 2011 May; 2(4): 266.
Published online 2011 May 1. doi:  10.1068/ic266
PMCID: PMC5393671

Temporal Dynamics of the Modulation of Character Structure and Phonetic Radical in Chinese Character Processing—an ERP Study


Chinese orthography, with semantic and phonetic radicals configured in different character structures, provides a unique opportunity to examine visual word processing. Previous ERP research showed that when participants silently named centrally presented characters, there was greater left hemisphere lateralization in N170 amplitude for sP characters (right-heavy, with a semantic radical on the left and a phonetic radical on the right) than Ps characters (the opposite configuration), suggesting that characters with different structures are processed differently in the brain. Here we utilize four additional character types, sS (right-heavy, no phonetic radical); Ss (the opposite configuration); Syp and Sys characters (symmetric structure, with and without phonetic radical respectively) to further examine how phonetic radical and character structure influence Chinese character processing. A significant interaction was found between character structure and hemisphere in P120 latency, suggesting that the modulation of character structure happens as early as 120 ms after the stimulus onset. Furthermore, the hemispheric asymmetry effects in N170 and P200 were found to be influenced by both phonetic radical and character structure, while N350 appeared to be modulated by phonetic radical only. These findings demonstrate that the modulation of character structure and phonetic radical have different time courses in Chinese character processing.

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