The phonological unit of Japanese Kanji compounds: A masked priming investigation

Masahiro Yoshihara, Mariko Nakayama, Rinus G. Verdonschot, Yasushi Hino

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Using the masked priming paradigm, we examined which phonological unit is used when naming Kanjicompounds. Although the phonological unit in the Japanese language has been suggested to be the mora,Experiment 1 found no priming for mora-related Kanji prime-target pairs. In Experiment 2, significantpriming was only found when Kanji pairs shared the whole sound of their initial Kanji characters.Nevertheless, when the same Kanji pairs used in Experiment 2 were transcribed into Kana, significantmora priming was observed in Experiment 3. In Experiment 4, matching the syllable structure andpitch-accent of the initial Kanji characters did not lead to mora priming, ruling out potential alternativeexplanations for the earlier absence of the effect. A significant mora priming effect was observed,however, when the shared initial mora constituted the whole sound of their initial Kanji characters inExperiments 5. Lastly, these results were replicated in Experiment 6. Overall, these results indicate thatthe phonological unit involved when naming Kanji compounds is not the mora but the whole sound ofeach Kanji character. We discuss how different phonological units may be involved when processingKanji and Kana words as well as the implications for theories dealing with language productionprocesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1328
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul


  • Kanji compounds
  • Masked priming effect
  • Naming tasks
  • Phonological unit


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