Yang, Chen, Spinelli, and Lupker (2019) reported a large masked priming effect in a Chinese lexical-decision task using prime-target pairs in which the primes were presented in a backward (right-to-left) orientation (e.g., 说来的总-总的来说) (a “backward” priming effect). The question addressed here is whether this effect is truly an orthographic priming effect or is, to some degree, morphologically/meaning- or syllabic/phonologically-based. Five experiments, two involving phonologically-related primes and three involving meaning-related primes, produced no evidence that either of those factors contributed to the backward priming effect, implying that it truly is an orthographic effect. As backward priming effects do not emerge in English, these results suggest that the orthographic coding process is quite different for Chinese versus English readers. Specifically, they support the conclusion that the orthographic coding process for Chinese readers codes character positions in a quite flexible fashion. Issues concerning the generalizability of current models of orthographic coding in alphabetic languages, as well as implications for models of Chinese word recognition, are discussed.
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