Four experiments investigated the role of the syllable in Chinese spoken word production. Chen, Chen and Ferrand (2003) reported a syllable priming effect when primes and targets shared the first syllable using a masked priming paradigm in Chinese. Our Experiment 1 was a direct replication of Chen et al.'s (2003) Experiment 3 employing CV (e.g., (Chinese source),/ba2.ying2/, strike camp) and CVG (e.g., (Chinese source),/bai2.shou3/, white haired) syllable types. Experiment 2 tested the syllable priming effect using different syllable types: e.g., CV ((Chinese source),/qi4.qiu2/, balloon) and CVN ((Chinese source),/qing1.ting2/, dragonfly). Experiment 3 investigated this issue further using line drawings of common objects as targets that were preceded either by a CV (e.g., (Chinese source),/qi3/, attempt), or a CVN (e.g., (Chinese source),/qing2/, affection) prime. Experiment 4 further examined the priming effect by a comparison between CV or CVN priming and an unrelated priming condition using CV-NX (e.g., (Chinese source),/mi2.ni3/, mini) and CVN-CX (e.g., (Chinese source),/min2.ju1/, dwellings) as target words. These four experiments consistently found that CV targets were named faster when preceded by CV primes than when they were preceded by CVG, CVN or unrelated primes, whereas CVG or CVN targets showed the reverse pattern. These results indicate that the priming effect critically depends on the match between the structure of the prime and that of the first syllable of the target. The effect obtained in this study was consistent across different stimuli and different tasks (word and picture naming), and provides more conclusive and consistent data regarding the role of the syllable in Chinese speech production.
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