DOI: 10.14704/nq.2017.15.3.1105

ERP Evidence for Chinese Compound Word Recognition: Does Morpheme Work all the Time?

Wenna Wang, Aitao Lu, Dongping He, Bao Zhang, John X Zhang


By holding the homophonic morpheme constants, the present study examined the effects of word frequency and morpheme frequency on the recognition of Chinese compound word using event-related potential (ERP) measurements and a delay response lexical decision task (LDT). The results revealed that low frequency word elicited less positivity when its initial morpheme with high-frequency in the time windows of 150-250ms,but a reverse ERPs pattern was elicited in time windows of 250-400ms; Different from Vergara-Martínez et al.’s (2009) results, the morpheme frequency effect of final morpheme showed a robust inhibitory frequency effect as words with high frequency morpheme elicited larger negativity in both 250-400ms and 400-500ms time windows for both high and low frequency compound words. Additionally, whole word frequency showed consistent facilitative effects ranged from 150 to 400 ms windows for initial morpheme word conditions, and from 250 to 500 ms windows for final morpheme word conditions. Our results suggested that morpheme frequency affects the processing of Chinese compound word, which depends on the whole word frequency and the position of a morpheme in a compound word, providing evidence for the sub-lexical representations in Chinese compound word, and the different role of constituents in compound word comprehension.


Chinese Compound Word, Word Processing, Morpheme Frequency, Whole Word Frequency, N400

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Supporting Agencies

This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (2015A030310517).

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