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Flexible Parafoveal Encoding of Character Order Supports Word Predictability Effects in Chinese Reading: Evidence from Eye Movements
Several eye movement studies have revealed flexibility in the parafoveal processing of character order information in Chinese reading. In particular, studies show that processing a two-character word in a sentence benefits more from parafoveal preview of a nonword created by transposing rather than replacing its two characters. One issue that has not been investigated is whether the contextual predictability of the target word influences this processing of character order information. However, such a finding would provide novel evidence for an early influence of context on lexical processing in Chinese reading. Accordingly, we investigated this issue in an eye movement experiment using the boundary paradigm and sentences containing two-character target words with high or low contextual predictability. Prior to the reader’s gaze crossing an invisible boundary, each target word was shown normally (i.e., a valid preview) or with its two characters either transposed or replaced by unrelated characters to create invalid nonword previews. These invalid previews reverted to the target word once the reader’s gaze crossed the invisible boundary. The results showed larger preview benefits(i.e., a decrease in fixation times)for target words following transposed-character than substituted-character previews, revealing a transposed-character effect similar to that in previous research. In addition, a word predictability effect (shorter fixation times for words with high than low predictability) was observed following both valid and transposed-character previews, but not substituted-character previews. The findings therefore reveal that context can influence an early stage of lexical processing in Chinese reading during which character order is processed flexibly.