Effects of Phonological Consistency and Semantic Radical Combinability on N170 and P200 in the Reading of Chinese Phonograms

Chun Hsien Hsu, Ya Ning Wu, Chia Ying Lee

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3 Scopus citations


Studies have suggested that visually presented words are obligatorily decomposed into constituents that could be mapped to language representations. The present study aims to elucidate how orthographic processing of one constituent affects the other and vice versa during a word recognition task. Chinese orthographic system has characters representing syllables and meanings instead of suffixation roles, and the majority of Chinese characters are phonograms that can be further decomposed into phonetic radical and semantic radical. We propose that semantic radical combinability indexed by semantic radicals and the effect of phonological consistency indexed by phonetic radicals would interact with each other during the reading of Chinese phonograms. Twenty-six right-handed native Chinese speakers were recruited to the study. Participants were presented with phonograms divided into four conditions following their semantic radical combinability (large vs. small) and phonological consistency (high vs. low). EEG signals were recorded throughout the covert naming task. Our results show that there is an interaction effect between phonological consistency and semantic radical combinability on the right hemisphere N170 activity while reading phonograms. Semantic radical combinability influenced the right hemisphere N170 during the process of low-consistency character reading but not high-consistency character reading. On the other hand, the left hemisphere N170 revealed a more significant activity during reading high-consistency characters and was not affected by radical combinability. In addition, while low-consistency characters revealed a larger P200 than high-consistency characters, the semantic radical combinability effect on P200 was only significant when participants were reading high-consistency characters but not low-consistency characters. These results provide new information about how ERPs are involved in word recognition within the context of interaction among orthographic and phonological dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number603878
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 9 Jul 2021


  • Chinese characters
  • N170
  • P200
  • event-related potentials
  • visual word recognition


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