The linguistic properties of the first (critical) character of a two-character Chinese word were manipulated when the eyes moved to the right of the critical character during reading to determine whether character processing is strictly unidirectional. In Experiment 1, the critical character was replaced with a congruent or incongruent character or left unchanged. Critical character changes did not influence the fixation duration, but incongruent changes led to more regressions than congruent changes. In Experiment 2, the critical character was replaced with either a homophonic or a non-homophonic character when it was to the left of fixation. The fixation following the change was now longer when the replaced character and the critical character were homophones than when they were phonologically dissimilar. These results indicate that readers obtain phonological and semantic information to the left of a fixated character and that the recognition of consecutive Chinese characters is not strictly unidirectional.
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