Foundations of early literacy among Arabic-speaking pre-school children

Hanadi Abu Ahmad, David L. Share

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study aimed to shed light on (i) the most accessible phonological unit and (ii) the nature of letter knowledge among native Arabic-speaking preschool children living in Israel. One hundred and sixty-seven children were assessed on phonological awareness with initial and final isolation tasks as well as knowledge of the standard names and sounds of Arabic letters. Children's responses in these tasks were categorized in accordance with the phonological unit that the child supplied. Regarding phonological unit accessibility, the novel finding of this study was the prevalence of a tri-phonemic /ʔ C/ unit that begins with the prefix /ʔ -/ and ends with the target (consonantal) phoneme which we have termed the demi-phoneme (e.g., /ʔ s/ for the consonant /s/). Awareness of the consonant-vowel unit was the next most prevalent unit followed lastly by the smallest unit - the phoneme. It appears that the demi-phoneme functions as a psycholinguistic aid to facilitate phoneme perception and pronunciation (as proposed by the 8th-century scholar - Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi) and both phoneme and demi-phoneme responses are underpinned by the same knowledge. With regard to letter knowledge, the standard name for Arabic letters was the preferred response and letter sounds were retrieved as a demi-phoneme unit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1195-1220
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.


  • CV
  • Keywords: phonological awareness
  • accessible phonological unit
  • demi-phoneme
  • letter knowledge in Arabic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Foundations of early literacy among Arabic-speaking pre-school children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this