Morphological processing in Chinese engages left temporal regions
Abstract Morphological awareness, the ability to manipulate the smallest units of meaning, is critical for Chinese literacy. This is because Chinese characters typically reflect the morphemic, or morpho-syllabic units of language. Yet, the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying Chinese speakers’ morphological processing remain understudied. Proficient readers (N = 14) completed morphological and phonological judgment tasks in Chinese, in both auditory and visual modalities, during fMRI imaging. Key to our inquiry were patterns of activation in left temporal regions, especially the superior temporal gyrus, which is critical for phonological processing and reading success. The findings revealed that morphological tasks elicited robust activation in superior and middle temporal regions commonly associated with automated phonological and lexico-semantic analyses. In contrast, the rhyme judgment task elicited greater activation in left frontal lobe regions, reflecting the analytical complexity of sound-to-print mapping in Chinese. The findings suggest that left temporal regions are sensitive to salient morpho-syllabic characteristics of a given language.