Reading spaced and unspaced Chinese text: evidence from eye movements

Bai, Xuejun, Yan, Guoli, Liversedge, Simon Paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8579-8546, Zang, Chuanli and Rayner, Keith (2008) Reading spaced and unspaced Chinese text: evidence from eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34 (5). pp. 1277-1287. ISSN 0096-1523

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Native Chinese readers' eye movements were monitored as they read text that did or did not demark word boundary information. In Experiment 1, sentences had 4 types of spacing: normal unspaced text, text with spaces between words, text with spaces between characters that yielded nonwords, and finally text with spaces between every character. The authors investigated whether the introduction of spaces into unspaced Chinese text facilitates reading and whether the word or, alternatively, the character is a unit of information that is of primary importance in Chinese reading. Global and local measures indicated that sentences with unfamiliar word spaced format were as easy to read as visually familiar unspaced text. Nonword spacing and a space between every character produced longer reading times. In Experiment 2, highlighting was used to create analogous conditions: normal Chinese text, highlighting that marked words, highlighting that yielded nonwords, and highlighting that marked each character. The data from both experiments clearly indicated that words, and not individual characters, are the unit of primary importance in Chinese reading.

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