The role of orthography in the semantic activation of neighbors

Yasushi Hino*, Stephen J. Lupker, Tamsen E. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


There is now considerable evidence that a letter string can activate semantic information appropriate to its orthographic neighbors (e.g., Forster & Hector's, 2002, TURPLE effect). This phenomenon is the focus of the present research. Using Japanese words, we examined whether semantic activation of neighbors is driven directly by orthographic similarity alone or whether there is also a role for phonological similarity. In Experiment 1, using a relatedness judgment task in which a Kanji word-Katakana word pair was presented on each trial, an inhibitory effect was observed when the initial Kanji word was related to an orthographic and phonological neighbor of the Katakana word target but not when the initial Kanji word was related to a phonological but not orthographic neighbor of the Katakana word target. This result suggests that phonology plays little, if any, role in the activation of neighbors' semantics when reading familiar words. In Experiment 2, the targets were transcribed into Hiragana, a script they are typically not written in, requiring readers to engage in phonological coding. In that experiment, inhibitory effects were observed in both conditions. This result indicates that phonologically mediated semantic activation of neighbors will emerge when phonological processing is necessary in order to understand a written word (e.g., when that word is transcribed into an unfamiliar script).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259-1273
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sept


  • Orthographic neighbors
  • Phonological neighbors
  • Relatedness judgment task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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