Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 633–651, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Phonological involvement in the processing of Japanese at the
lexical and sentence levels
AIKO MORITA & KATSUO TAMAOKA
Hiroshima University, Japan
Abstract. The present study examined whether Japanese readers activate phonological
information when reading kanji compound words and sentences and if so, how they do it.
Experiment 1 used two-kanji compound words in a lexical decision task to study phonological
processing at the lexical level. When nonwords were pseudo-homophones (
/roR hi/ in
place of the real word
/roR hi/), reaction times were longer and more errors occurred
than with nonwords in the control group (
/saku hi/). Experiment 2 required participants
to detect misspellings (i.e., incorrect kanji combinations) of two-kanji compound stimuli
embedded in sentences. In the detection task of misspelled kanji, no homophonic effect was
apparent. Experiment 3 used a semantic decision task. Included in this task were semantic-
ally similar but incorrect kanji compound words used as ﬁllers in sentences (e.g.,
meaning ‘The building you can see over there was
facilitated by my friend’ instead of designed) as well as the sentences used in Experiment 2.
Results from Experiment 3 indicated that participants could reject a sentence as incorrect more
quickly when pseudo-homophones were embedded in the sentences rather than nonwords.
These results suggest that readers activate phonological information of two-kanji compound
words when reading for comprehension but not for simple proofreading.
Key words: Japanese kanji compound words, Lexical and sentence processing, Phonological
It is a long-debated issue whether or not phonological information is essential
during silent reading by skilled readers. Many studies have suggested that
phonological information is essential for word recognition and for reading
sentences in alphabetic scripts (e.g., Ferrand & Grainger 1992; Lesch &
Pollastek 1993; Pollastek, Lesch, Moris & Rayner 1992; Rayner, Pollastek
& Binder 1998). Coltheart, Avons, Masterson and Laxon (1991) suggested
that both assembled and addressed phonology contribute to word recognition
and the reading of sentences. It seems that the same phonological processing
takes place during word recognition and sentence comprehension of alpha-
betic scripts. Furthermore, some studies done on the processing of Chinese
characters have shown phonological involvement in visual recognition of