First Advisor

Thomas G. Dieterich

Term of Graduation

Winter 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Chinese characters -- Japan -- Phonology, Chinese characters -- Japan -- Orthography and spelling, Japanese language -- Orthography and spelling, Reading, Psychology of



Physical Description

1 online resource (123 pages)


The purpose of this study was to investigate the lexical access of Japanese kanji characters, particularly the access of on-readings and kun-readings, which are different pronunciations that kanji may realize in different contexts. A modified Stroop experiment was used, using drawings instead of colors, in which subjects were to call out what they saw in the drawings while ignoring written distractors. The following three conditions were used:

1. A Kunyomi condition, which offered a distractor that is graphically and phonologically identical to the character that represents the object in the drawing,

2. An Onyomi condition, which offered a distractor that is graphically identical but phonologically incongruent, and

3.An Incongruent condition, in which the distractor was both graphically and phonologically incongruent.

Subjects were 30 native Japanese speakers attending Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, who had completed at least secondary education in Japan. All subjects should be considered proficient readers of kanji.

The following hypotheses were posed:

1. There would not be a significant difference between the Onyomi condition and the Incongruent condition, suggesting a weak role for visual processing in kanji recognition.

2. The Kunyomi condition would be significantly faster than both the Onyomi condition and the Incongruent condition, suggesting a strong role for phonological processing in kanji recognition.

These hypotheses were not realized. The Onyomi condition did not demonstrate a significant difference from either the Incongruent condition or the Kun yo mi condition. In fact, though both differences were non-significant, the Onyomi data were more similar to the Kunyomi data than the Incongruent data, contrary to the hypothesis.

The fact that the Kunyomi condition was significantly faster than the Incongruent condition suggests that there is a strong role for phonological processing in kanji recognition. Unfortunately, the data suggest nothing statistically concerning visual processing. However, the direction of the data leads one to conjecture that visual processing may also play a role in kanji recognition, though less powerful.


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