Syllabic tone articulation influences the identification and use of words during Chinese sentence reading: Evidence from ERP and eye movement recordings

Yingyi Luo, Ming Yan, Shaorong Yan, Xiaolin Zhou, Albrecht W. Inhoff

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In two experiments, we examined the contribution of articulation-specific features to visual word recognition during the reading of Chinese. In spoken Standard Chinese, a syllable with a full tone can be tone-neutralized through sound weakening and pitch contour change, and there are two types of two-character compound words with respect to their articulation variation. One type requires articulation of a full tone for each constituent character, and the other requires a full- and a neutral-tone articulation for the first and second characters, respectively. Words of these two types with identical first characters were selected and embedded in sentences. Native speakers of Standard Chinese were recruited to read the sentences. In Experiment 1, the individual words of a sentence were presented serially at a fixed pace while event-related potentials were recorded. This resulted in less-negative N100 and anterior N250 amplitudes and in more-negative N400 amplitudes when targets contained a neutral tone. Complete sentences were visible in Experiment 2, and eye movements were recorded while participants read. Analyses of oculomotor activity revealed shorter viewing durations and fewer refixations on—and fewer regressive saccades to—target words when their second syllable was articulated with a neutral rather than a full tone. Together, the results indicate that readers represent articulation-specific word properties, that these representations are routinely activated early during the silent reading of Chinese sentences, and that the representations are also used during later stages of word processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-92
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1



  • Articulation duration
  • Chinese
  • Lexical tone
  • Neutral tone
  • Sentence reading
  • Syllabic tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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