On the flexibility of letter position coding during lexical processing: the case of Thai

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Perea, M, Winskel, H & Ratitamkul, T 2012, 'On the flexibility of letter position coding during lexical processing: the case of Thai', Experimental Psychology, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 68-73.

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In Indo-European languages, letter position coding is particularly noisy in middle positions (e.g., judge and jugde look very similar), but not in the initial letter position (e.g., judge vs. ujdge). Here we focus on a language (Thai) which, potentially, may be more flexible with respect to letter position coding than Indo-European languages: (i) Thai is an alphabetic language which is written without spaces between words (i.e., there is a degree of ambiguity in relation to which word a given letter belongs to) and (ii) some of the vowels are misaligned (e.g., /ε:bn/ is pronounced as /bε:n/), whereas others are not (e.g., /a:p/ is pronounced as /a:p/). We conducted a masked priming lexical decision experiment with 3–4 letter Thai words (with vs. without an initial misaligned vowel) in which the prime was: (i) identical to the target, (ii) a nonword generated by transposing the two initial letters of the target, or (iii) a replacement-letter control nonword. Results showed a significant masked transposed-letter priming effect in the initial letter positions, which was similar in size for words with and without an initial misaligned vowel. These findings reflect that: (i) letter position coding in Thai is very flexible and (ii) the nature of the obtained priming effects is orthographic rather than phonological.

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