School of Global Studies, Tama University, Fujisawa, Japan
Overviews of the Japanese writing system and constituent-morpheme priming studies of Japanese compound words
Among scholars of writing systems, the Japanese writing system (JWS) is generally regarded as being the most complex in modern use and, arguably, the most complicated ever devised (Joyce, 2013). Undoubtedly, one factor that greatly contributes to the JWS’s complexity is that it consists of four scripts—morphographic kanji (漢字), two syllabographic scripts of hiragana and katakana (ひらがな・カタカナ) and the phonetic alphabet of rōmaji (ローマ字) (Joyce & Masuda, 2018). The first part of this talk presents an overview of these component scripts and the standard orthographic conventions that guide how the scripts are essentially employed together as complementary elements of an overall system and yet simultaneously afford for remarkable levels of orthographic variation.
While much of the psycholinguistic research on Japanese visual word recognition has focused on comparing kanji and kana in terms of semantic versus phonological routes, given that the principal script of kanji is morphographic in nature, the JWS provides particularly intriguing opportunities for investigating the role of morphology within the mental lexicon. Accordingly, the second part of this talk will briefly outline a series of constituent-morpheme priming experiments involving two-kanji compound words, which is the more common word structure in Japanese (Joyce, 2002; 2004, Masuda & Joyce 2018). All of the experiments, using the lexical decision task, have manipulated both prime-target conditions (constituent prime to compound target) and word-formation principle conditions (such as modifier + modified (MM), verb + complement (VC), complement + verb (CV), and synonymous pairs (SP)) as their independent variables, with some also contrasting brief stimulus onset asynchronicity (SOA) conditions. Overall, the studies provide clear evidence for the early activation of morphological information within the processing of compound words across various word-formation conditions. Moreover, the results also suggest the presence of advantages of left-to-right processing (tendency for greater first-constituent priming), of the head-morpheme (verbal constituents of VC and CV compounds and nouns of MM compounds generally show greater priming than the respective constituent conditions), and of lexical-stratum (slightly faster reaction times for Native-Japanese compounds compared to Sino-Japanese compounds). These results will be discussed in the context of the Japanese lemma-unit model (Joyce, 2002, 2004; Masuda & Joyce, 2018); a connectionist model that seeks to model the complex interactions between various forms of morphological information within the Japanese mental lexicon.
Joyce, Terry. (2002). Constituent-morpheme priming: Implications from the morphology of two-kanji compound words. Japanese Psychological Research, 44(2), 79–90.
Joyce, Terry. (2004). Modeling the Japanese mental lexicon: Morphological, orthographic and phonological considerations. In Serge P. Shohov (Ed.), Advances in Psychological Research: Volume 31 (pp. 27–61). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science.
Joyce, Terry. (2013). The significance of the morphographic principle for the classification of writing systems. In Susanne R. Borgwaldt & Terry Joyce (Eds.), Typology of writing systems (pp. 61–84). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Joyce, Terry, & Masuda, Hisashi. (2018). Introduction to the multi-script Japanese writing system and word processing. In Hye K. Pae (Ed.), Writing systems, reading processes, and cross-linguistic influences: Reflections from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages (pp. 179–199). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Masuda, Hisashi, & Joyce, Terry. (2018). Constituent-priming investigations of the morphological activation of Japanese compound words. In Hye K. Pae (Ed.), Writing systems, reading processes, and cross-linguistic influences: Reflections from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages (pp. 221–244). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.