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Poster B9, Wednesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Electrophysiological evidence for the time course of syllabic and sub-syllabic processing in Cantonese Chinese spoken word production

Andus Wing-Kuen Wong1, Ho-Ching Chiu1, Jie Wang2, Siu-San Wong1, Hsuan-Chih Chen2;1City University of Hong Kong, 2Chinese University of Hong Kong

To produce a spoken word, one needs to access the lexical representation of the target and to retrieve the phonological form of the utterance before articulation. The latter process has been termed phonological planning. It has long been assumed that phonemic segments are the first selectable phonological units following lexical access. Recent studies on Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, however, have shown that the first selectable phonological planning units are atonal syllables (syllables without the lexical tone specified) and moras, respectively. Some researchers therefore proposed the proximate unit hypothesis suggesting that the first selectable phonological planning unit (i.e., the proximate unit) is language dependent. In the case of Chinese spoken word production, according to the proximate unit hypothesis, phonological planning starts with the retrieval of the atonal syllable followed by the specification of the sub-syllabic units. Although there is accumulating evidence suggesting the important role of atonal syllable in both Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, no clear evidence has yet available regarding the relative time course of syllabic and sub-syllabic processing in Chinese spoken word production. The present study was therefore conducted to address this issue using the picture-word interference task with concurrent recording of event-related brain potential (ERP) signals. Thirty-five native Cantonese-speakers were asked to name aloud individually presented pictures and ignore an accompanying auditory word distractor. Half of the picture stimuli had a monosyllabic Cantonese name and the other half had a disyllabic Cantonese name.The target and distractor either shared the same atonal syllable (i.e., Syllable Related), the same syllable-body (i.e., Body Related), or were unrelated. Participants’ naming latencies were significantly different between Syllable Related condition (776 ms) and its unrelated control (816 ms), t(34)=8.14, p <.001, and between Body Related condition (790 ms) and its unrelated control (809 ms), t(34)=3.94, p <.001. Mean amplitude values in each successive bin of 50-ms window post-target were obtained and submitted for ANOVAs. For mono-syllabic targets, the ERPs of Syllable Related and unrelated conditions started to diverge within 300 ms post-target, whereas the waves of Body Related and unrelated conditions began to diverge from the time window of 300-350 ms. For di-syllabic targets, significant ERP effects were found in the Syllable Related condition in the time windows between 400 and 500 ms, whereas significant Body Related ERP effects were found only in the time window between 450 and 500 ms. In this study, the Syllable Related priming observed was larger in size than the Body Related priming, regardless of the length of the target (i.e., monosyllable or disyllable targets). More importantly, the ERP effects associated with Syllable Related priming appeared earlier than those associated with Body Related priming, and the same pattern was observed in both monosyllabic and disyllabic targets. These results are consistent with the proximate unit hypothesis that the nature of the proximate unit is language dependent, and that syllable retrieval precedes sub-syllabic specification in phonological encoding of Cantonese Chinese.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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