Full-form vs. combinatorial processing of Chinese compound words: Evidence from mismatch negativity

Yun Zou, Yiu Kei Tsang*, Yu Hei Shum, Chun Yu Tse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined whether Chinese spoken compound words are processed via full-form access or combination through morphemes by recording mismatch negativity (MMN). MMN has been shown to be larger for linguistic units that involves full-form access (lexical MMN enhancement) and smaller for separate but combinable units (combinatorial MMN reduction). Chinse compound words were compared against pseudocompounds, which do not have full-form representations in the long-term memory and are “illegal” combinations. All stimuli were disyllabic (bimorphemic). Word frequency was manipulated with the prediction that low-frequency compounds are more likely processed combinatorially, while high-frequency ones are more likely accessed in full forms. The results showed that low-frequency words elicited smaller MMNs than pseudocompounds, which supported the prediction of combinatorial processing. However, neither MMN enhancement nor reduction was found for high-frequency words. These results were interpreted within the dual-route model framework that assumes simultaneous access to words and morphemes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese
  • Compound word
  • Dual-route model
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Spoken word recognition


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