Neurocognitive aspects of processing Arabic and Hebrew

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The aim of this chapter is to explore the neuro-cognitive basis of the difficulties that the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual encounters in processing Arabic language as a result of the diglossic situation in Arabic (Spoken Arabic and Modern Standard, or Literary Arabic). Furthermore, the chapter discusses the unique features of Arabic language that might contribute to the inhibition and slowness of reading acquisition and might even hinder the acquisition of basic academic skills. In the first section, two case studies of a Arabic-Hebrew aphasic patients (MH and MM) presented, with different disturbances in the two languages, Arabic (L1) and Hebrew (L2). They exhibited a complementary pattern of severe impairment of either L1 (Arabic) or L2 (Hebrew) constituting a double dissociation. These results suggested that the principles governing the organization of lexical representations in the brain are not similar for the two languages. The second section focuses on the functional architecture of reading in Hebrew and in Arabic. The effects of characteristics of Arabic and Hebrew as Semitic languages, on hemispheric functioning were systematically examined. These patterns are compared with the modal findings in the literature, which are usually based on English. Also, the effects of the absence of almost all vowel information, the orthographies of the two languages, and their non-concatenative morphological structure were investigated. It was shown that when languages make different types of demands upon the cognitive system, interhemispheric interaction is dynamic and is suited to these demands. In that regard both Arabic and Hebrew require a higher level of interhemispheric interaction than does English.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBrain Research Developments
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781611220667
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


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