The role of verbal patterns in Arabic reading acquisition: insights from cross-modal priming

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The role of morphology in learning to read can vary widely across languages and is related to the extent to which the morphological system is a dominant feature of the specific language. The present study focuses on Arabic, a Semitic language written in an abjad (consonantal writing system) and characterized by rich morphological structures based on non-concatenative word-building procedures. This study is the first to address the issue of verbal pattern priming among young developing Arabic speakers. Second and fifth graders performed a lexical decision task using cross-modal priming in which target words primed by the same verbal pattern as the target (/tanaffasa/- /tamahhala/ 'breathed-slowed') were compared to words primed with a different verbal pattern than the target while preserving phonological similarity (e.g., /tana:qaʃa/ - /tamahhala/'discussed-slowed'). The findings showed facilitation for target words on accuracy rates among fifth graders only. No facilitation in lexical decisions was observed in reaction times in either grade. These findings show that the verbal pattern acts as a binding agent at a more advanced stage of reading acquisition enhancing representation quality in terms of accuracy. With regard to speed, more reading experience, linguistic knowledge, and exposure to the written language are apparently required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-672
Number of pages24
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Arabic language
  • Cross-modal priming
  • Development
  • Mental lexicon
  • Morphology
  • Verbal pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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