The acquisition of orthographic knowledge: Evidence from the lexicality effects on N400

Yu Lin Tzeng, Chun Hsien Hsu, Yu Chen Huang, Chia Ying Lee

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13 Scopus citations


This study aimed to understand how reading ability shapes the lexicality effects on N400. Fifty-three typical developing children from the second to the sixth grades were asked to perform the pronounceability judgment task on a set of Chinese real characters (RC), pseudocharacters (PC) and non-characters (NC), as ERPs were recorded. The cluster-based permutation analysis revealed that children with low- to medium-reading ability showed greater negativity to NCs than to RCs and PCs in frontal sites from 300 to 450 ms, while children with high ability group showed a greater positivity to NCs than both RCs and PCs at central to posterior sites. Furthermore, the linear mixed model (LMM) analysis was applied to investigate the relationship between lexicality effects on N400 and reading-related behavioral assessments on a set of standardized tests (including character recognition, vocabulary size, phonological awareness, and working memory). The results found that in children with lower reading ability, the N400 elicited by NCs becomes more negative in the frontal sites. For children with higher reading ability, the N400 elicited by NCs became more positive than that elicited by RCs or PCs in the posterior sites. These findings demonstrate the developmental changes in the lexicality effects on N400 as children become more advanced readers and suggested that the lexicality effects on N400 can serve as neural markers for the evaluation of orthographic proficiency in reading development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number433
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 30 Mar 2017


  • Chinese
  • Lexicality
  • N400
  • Orthography
  • Reading development


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