Multilingualism among Israeli arabs, and the neuropsychology of reading in different languages

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Theoretical and empirical aspects of the cognitive and neural bases of the language status and language experience are discussed. We chose to compare reading performance in Arabic, Hebrew and English in order to clarify if the difference in performance is due to native language reading strategies or to native language structure. This section will be divided into two parts. In the first part we discuss the diglossia in Arabic in which the two forms of Arabic language (Spoken Arabic-SA and Literary Arabic-LA) may be considered as two forms of one. The findings on the relationships between the two forms of Arabic to the relations existing between LA and Hebrew using semantic and repetition priming techniques will be presented. In further study, we discuss if Arab children evince the metalinguistic abilities that have been found to characterize bilingual children and how these abilities affect reading acquisition. In related issue, we discuss the perceptual processes involved in the recognition of Arabic letters compared to Hebrew letters. In this discussion we tried to highlight the role of the additional visual complexity that characterizes Arabic orthography in reading acquisition. In the second section, we concentrate on the relationship between language experience, such as reading a particular language with particular orthographic and morphologic characteristics, and the genetic functional architecture of language processes in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. We try to determine if that the processing of Arabic orthography seems to make different demands on the cognitive system both in beginning and in skilled readers. Specifically, we try to assess the contribution of language-specific orthographic and morphological structure to the involvement of the right hemisphere (RH) in the early stages of reading. Using behavioral measures of performance asymmetries in a divided visual field paradigm, we argue that Arabic orthography specifically disallows the involvement of the RH in letter identification, even while the RH of the same participants does contribute to this process in English and in Hebrew. Finally, our focus on the relationship between the morphological structure of a language and performance asymmetries in a lateralized lexical decision task reveal a pattern of similarities and differences in the processing of English (which has a concatenative morphological structure), and Hebrew and Arabic (which have a nonconcatenative structure).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Issues in Bilingualism
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive and Socio-linguistic Perspectives
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789400723276
ISBN (Print)9789400723269
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012.


  • Arabic
  • Bilingualism
  • Diglossia
  • Hebrew
  • Metalinguistic awareness
  • Morphology
  • Orthography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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