The Impact of Diglossia on Phonological Processing

Ibrahim A. Asadi, Salim Abu-Rabia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the impact of the lexical distance (spoken, modern standard Arabic-MSA, shared, and pseudo-words) on phonological awareness (PA) and naming speed (RAN). The data from this longitudinal study were obtained from 261 native Arabic-speaking kindergarteners, which were then followed to first grade. The data revealed a significant effect of the lexical distance both on PA and RAN. The PA of the spoken language was easier than the MSA and the other clusters. Similarly, the naming speed of the spoken items was better than the MSA but slower than the shared ones. Regardless of lexical distance, the main effect was on the length of the items but not on the phonemic position. Thus, in the Arabic diglossic reality, certain phonological features of the MSA may not be sufficiently developed and available in the first grade for the reading development. The results are discussed in relation to previous findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-699
Number of pages15
JournalReading Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the staff and the children from the participating preschools for their cooperation as well as students in the master?s degree program in learning disabilities for their role in data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Arabic diglossia
  • Phonological awareness
  • lexical access
  • lexical distance
  • naming speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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