Reading Arabic with the diacritics for short vowels: vowelised but not necessarily easy to read

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This study examined the influence of diacritics for short vowels on the accuracy and fluency of reading aloud in Arabic orthography among a sample of 1516 children in first–sixth grades. For this purpose, the children’s reading was evaluated using two lists of directly comparable words: one without diacritics for short vowels (unvowelised) and the other with diacritics for short vowels (fully vowelised). Our results indicate that reading accuracy and fluency were higher on the unvowelised orthography in all the grades, except for the first and second grades which had similar accuracies. Thus, diacritics for short vowels seem to add to the complexity and density of Arabic orthography. These findings are discussed in the context of the unique characteristics and complexity of the Arabic orthographic system. In addition, the role of diacritics for short vowels in determining orthographic depth and transparency in Arabic is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalWriting Systems Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Arabic orthography
  • diacritics for short vowels
  • fluency
  • reading accuracy
  • transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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