Left-handedness and achievements in foreign language studies

O. Lamm, R. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of brain lateralization lend support to the hypothesis that language-motor functions in left-handers are differently organized from those in right-handers. However, the implications of these differences regarding cognitive functioning are as yet subject to controversy. This concerns all hypotheses raised and empirical data collected over the years. Although it was suggested that left-handers are at higher risk of having language and reading deficits, empirical data from clinical and nonclinical populations are inconclusive at the present time. No effort, however, has been invested in examining possible differences in academic studies of foreign languages according to handedness. Here we report data indicating inferior achievements of left-handed native Hebrew speakers in studies of English as a foreign language. Left-handed pupils significantly more than right-handers were placed in lower level English classes and had more difficulties in applying orthographic-phonological mapping rules in reading English words and pseudowords. However, left-handers' difficulties in this task were not correlated with their performance in a word recognition task. It is thus suggested that the 'common symptom' of poor word reading in left-handers indicates different processing failures in different left-handers, some of which impede the buildup of an internal representational system of mapping orthography to phonology and some of which concern mainly the precision of word production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-517
Number of pages14
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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