Contribution of phonological and morphological information in reading Arabic: A developmental perspective

Amalia Bar-On, Yasmin Shalhoub-Awwad, Reem Ibraheem Tuma-Basila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arabic-speaking students learn to read a transparent mau:l script, which provides full vowel information using letters to represent long vowels and phonemic diacritics for short vowels. Gradually, they progress to an opaque ɣayr-maku:l script, without diacritics. In this script, internal short vowels can be retrieved using morphological information about word patterns. The current study compared the contribution of phonological information to that of morphological information in the reading acquisition process in Arabic. Four Arabic-speaking groups (2nd, 4th, 6th grades, and adults) read three lists of pseudowords aloud. Two lists included the same morphologically based pseudowords (MPW), one maku:l and the second ɣayr-maku:l. The third list comprised matched maku:l nonwords (NW) with no internal morphological structure. All groups read the ɣayr-maku:l MPW list faster than the two other maku:l lists, and maku:l NWs were read the slowest. There was an age by list type accuracy interaction: while ɣayr-maku:l MPWs were read more accurately with increasing age, there were no differences between the student groups with respect to either of the other two lists. However, maku:l MPWs were read more accurately than maku:l NWs. The findings suggest that from very early on, morphology exceeds phonology, playing a crucial role in supplementing missing vowel information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1277
Number of pages25
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Cambridge University Press.


  • Arabic language
  • morphology
  • phonology
  • pseudowords
  • reading development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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