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Publication - Professor Markus Damian

    Syllables constitute proximate units for Mandarin speakers

    Electrophysiological evidence from a masked priming task


    Zhang, Q & Damian, M, 2019, ‘Syllables constitute proximate units for Mandarin speakers: Electrophysiological evidence from a masked priming task’. Psychophysiology, vol 56.


    Languages may differ regarding the primary mental unit of phonological encoding in spoken production, with models of speakers of Indo-European languages generally assuming a central role for phonemes, but spoken Chinese production potentially attributing a more prominent role to syllables. In the present study, native Mandarin Chinese speakers named objects that were preceded by briefly presented and masked prime words, which were form related and either matched or mismatched concerning their syllabic structure, or were unrelated. Behavioral results showed a previously reported interaction between prime and target syllable type. Concurrently recorded EEG also exhibited this interaction and further revealed that syllable overlap modulated ERPs mainly in the time window of 300-400 ms after picture onset. By contrast, phonemic overlap modulated ERPs from 500 ms to 600 ms. This pattern might suggest that speakers retrieved syllables before phonemes and strengthens the claim that for Chinese individuals syllables constitute primary functional representations ("proximate units").

    Full details in the University publications repository