The Contribution of Orthography to Spoken Word Production: Evidence from Mandarin Chinese

By Bi, Yanchao; Wei, Tao et al. | Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, June 2009 | Go to article overview

The Contribution of Orthography to Spoken Word Production: Evidence from Mandarin Chinese


Bi, Yanchao, Wei, Tao, Janssen, Niels, Han, Zaizhu, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


A recent debate in the language production literature concerns the influence of a word's orthographic information on spoken word production and the extent to which this influence is modulated by task context. In the present study, Mandarin Chinese participants produced sets of words that shared orthography (O+P-), phonology (O-P+), or orthography and phonology (O+P+), or were unrelated (O-P-), in the context of a reading, associative naming, or picture naming task. Shared phonology yielded facilitation effects in all three tasks, but only in the reading task was this phonological effect modulated by shared orthography. Shared orthography by itself (O+P-) revealed inhibitory effects in reading, but not in associative naming or in picture naming. These results suggest that a word's orthography information influences spoken word production only in tasks that rely heavily on orthographic information.

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The degree to which processing of information from one modality interacts with information from another modality is a topic of general interest in cognitive psychology. Within speech comprehension, classic evidence revealing such an interaction between different modalities comes from the study of Seidenberg and Tanenhaus (1979). These authors showed that rhyme judgments on auditorily presented words were faster when those words were orthographically related (e.g., pie-tie) than when they were orthographically unrelated (e.g., pie-bye). Recent studies have investigated the influence of a word's orthographic information on speech production (Alario, Perre, Castel, & Ziegler, 2007; J.-Y. Chen & T.-M. Chen, 2007; T.-M. Chen & J.-Y. Chen, 2006; Damian & Bowers, 2003; Roelofs, 2006). In the present study, we exploited a property of Mandarin Chinese that allowed us to directly assess the independent contributions of a word's orthographic and phonological information to speech production.

The effect of orthography on speech production has been investigated through the use of various adaptations of the implicit priming technique. In experiments using this technique, participants produce responses in small sets. The relationships among the responses in a set can be related (homogeneous) or unrelated (heterogeneous). In one variant of this technique, associative naming, the participants first learn to associate sets of word pairs (e.g., desert-camel); in the experiment proper, they produce a vocal response (i.e., camel) on the basis of the associated cue word (i.e., desert). A standard finding is the formpreparation effect (see, e.g., Meyer, 1990, 1991). When the target words in a set share orthographic and phonological properties (O+P+; e.g., desert-camel, tea-coffee, sofa-cushion), response production latencies are faster than when they are unrelated (O-P-; e.g., desert-camel, wander-gypsy, sofa-cushion).

Using associative naming, Damian and Bowers (2003) showed that English participants' response latencies to targets that shared phonology, but not orthography (O-P+; e.g., dog-kennel, tea-coffee, sofa-cushion), were slower than those to targets that shared phonology and orthography (O+P+), and that they did not differ from unrelated targets (O-P-). This modulation of the form-preparation effect by orthographic information has been referred to in the literature as the orthographic inconsistency effect. On the basis of this result, the authors argued for a language production system in which orthographic and phonological information interact.

In subsequent studies, researchers have failed to replicate this effect and have attempted to understand the discrepancy from two perspectives: (1) Was the effect observed by Damian and Bowers (2003) language specific (English), and (2) was it task specific (associative naming)? First, Roelofs (2006) examined whether the orthographic inconsistency effect in speech production is influenced by the transparency of the language's orthography- phonology correspondence (OPC).

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