The current study investigated the effects of phonologically related context pictures on the naming latencies of target words in Japanese and Chinese. Reading bare words in alphabetic languages has been shown to be rather immune to effects of context stimuli, even when these stimuli are presented in advance of the target word (e.g., Glaser & Düngelhoff, 1984; Roelofs, 2003). However, recently, semantic context effects of distractor pictures on the naming latencies of Japanese kanji (but not Chinese hànzì) words have been observed (Verdonschot, La Heij, & Schiller, 2010). In the present study, we further investigated this issue using phonologically related (i.e., homophonic) context pictures when naming target words in either Chinese or Japanese. We found that pronouncing bare nouns in Japanese is sensitive to phonologically related context pictures, whereas this is not the case in Chinese. The difference between these two languages is attributed to processing costs caused by multiple pronunciations for Japanese kanji.
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