Rethinking orthographic neighbor in Chinese two-character word recognition: Insights from a megastudy

Yiu Kei Tsang*, Yun Zou, Jie Wang, Andus Wing Kuen Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The influence of orthographic neighbors on visual word recognition is well established in alphabetic scripts. To determine the universality of this effect across writing systems, researchers have been keen on exploring its presence and nature in Chinese word recognition. Given that Chinese is logographic, it necessitates a different definition for orthographic neighbors from the ones used in alphabetic scripts. One popular approach is to consider words that share characters as orthographic neighbors. Adopting this definition, a facilitative effect has been observed for characters that can create more words. However, as characters are also morphemes in Chinese, the facilitation found might actually come from a larger morphological family size. This possibility was tested in the present study by analyzing data from the Chinese Lexicon Project (CLP; Tse et al., Behavior Research Methods, 49, 1503–1519, 2017, Behavior Research Methods, 49, 1503–1519, 2022), a megastudy of two-character word recognition in traditional Chinese. If the effects of character-sharing are indeed morphological in nature, the facilitation should be smaller for ambiguous characters because the words formed are distributed over several morphological families. The results of the analyses were consistent with this hypothesis, revealing interactions between the number of words formed by a character and the number of meanings of the character. The implications of these findings were discussed in the context of definitions of orthographic neighbors and theories of word recognition in Chinese.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jan 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ambiguous character
  • Chinese word recognition
  • Megastudy analysis
  • Orthographic neighbor


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