Phonology is accessed during Chinese character copying

Kai Yan Lau, Ting Yan Wong

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)AbstractAcademic researchpeer-review


Introduction. According to the logogen model (Ellis & Young, 2013), direct word copying can be achieved with or without accessing to semantics and phonology. Recently, a study reported that phonological effect involved significantly more than orthographic processing in a copying task of French and Spanish among normal individuals (Afonso et al., 2015). In the current study, we investigated whether similar phonological effect can be observed in character copying in Chinese. Specifically, the handwriting data of copying of regular phonetic compounds (those that share the same syllables with their phonetic radicals) and irregular phonetic compounds (those do not share the same syllables with their phonetic radicals) were compared. Methods. The dataset used was extracted from the Database of Radicals in Written Chinese with Reliable Logographeme Boundaries (Lau, 2019a; Lau, accepted). In this database, a total of 856 radicals were identified from 6480 most frequently found traditional characters in newspapers in Hong Kong (Leung & Lau, 2010). For each radical, the highest frequency character containing the radical was selected as stimuli. One hundred undergraduates (age ranged from 19 to 22 years old, gender balanced, with no prior linguistic training and literacy problem reported) were recruited for a direct copying task involving 172 of the total stimuli such that the handwriting responses of at least 20 participants were collected for each stimulus. Their handwriting response were collected through 7-inch tablets and capacitive stylus pens with a homebrew Android application that recorded the elapsed time and the coordinates each time the stylus pen left / touched the tablet screen. The inter-stroke intervals (ISI) and inter-stroke distance (ISD) were calculated accordingly. In this study, the handwriting data of 151 phonetic compounds were analyzed. Results. The results of linear mixed effect modelling showed that ISI increased with ISD (0.51 ± 0.01), and increased with stroke number (15.24 ± 2.72). ISI also decreased with Character Frequency (-1.75 ± 0.41, average count) particularly at the Radical Boundary (interaction of Radical Boundary/Character Frequency: -10.14 ± 1.33), decreased with Radical Frequency (-8.31 ± 1.16, average count) particularly at the Logographeme Boundary (interaction of Logographeme Boundary/Radical Frequency: -8.41 ± 1.17), and decreased with Regularity (-2.20 ± 2.52, average count) at the Radical Boundary (interaction of Radical Boundary/Regularity: -21.60 ± 6.00). Figure 1 shows the between- and within-radicals ISIs of the regular and irregular characters. Discussion. The significant character- and radical-frequency effects were consistent with previous suggestions that shorter time is needed for the retrieval and/or planning of high frequency radicals and/or logographemes in the writing process (Lau, 2019; Lau, accepted). The significantly longer ISIs at the radical boundaries of the irregular characters is attributed to the competitions of the mismatched syllables associated with the characters and their corresponding phonetic radicals. Hence, the results of the current study supported that phonology is involved in Chinese character copying. Theoretical implications will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019
EventAcademy of Aphasia 57th Annual Meeting, Macau - Macau, China
Duration: 27 Oct 201929 Oct 2019


CompetitionAcademy of Aphasia 57th Annual Meeting, Macau
Internet address


  • Chinese (Cantonese)
  • Writing
  • phonology
  • handwriting
  • Lexical Processing
  • connectivity


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