Semantic Radicals Contribute to the Visual Identification of Chinese Characters

Laurie Beth Feldman, Witina W.T. Siok

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)


In a character decision task, phonetic compound targets (composed of a semantic radical and a phonetic component) followed primes that shared (a) the target's radical and were semantically related (R+S+), (b) the target's radical and were not semantically related (R+S-), (c) no radical but were semantically related (R-S+), and (d) no radical and were not semantically related (R-S-). Target radicals also varied as to the number of compounds in which they appeared (i.e., combinability). When targets followed primes immediately (Experiment 1; SOA 243 ms), target latencies following R+S- primes were slowed relative to R-S- controls but those following R+S+ and R-S+ primes were facilitated equivalently. Increases in combinability significantly reduced decision latencies. When 10 items separated primes and targets (Experiment 2), facilitation was evident only after R+S+ primes. Results indicate that one type of component, the semantic radical, is processed in the course of Chinese character recognition and that orthographic similarity due to repetition of a radical is not an adequate account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-576
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Semantic radical
  • semantic component
  • sublexical component
  • semantic transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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