The role of vowels in reading Semitic scripts: Data from Arabic and Hebrew

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This study investigated the effect of vowels and context on reading accuracy of skilled adult native Arabic speakers in Arabic and in Hebrew, their second language. Their reading comprehension was also tested in Arabic and Hebrew texts as a function of vowels. The participants (n = 65) read fully vowelized and unvowelized lists of Arabic words, and vowelized and unvowelized paragraphs of Arabic. Further, they, read pointed and unpointed lists of Hebrew words, and pointed and unpointed paragraphs of Hebrew. They were also administered two stories, one in Arabic and one in Hebrew, in two reading conditions, a fully vowelized and unvowelized Arabic story and a pointed and unpointed Hebrew story. The results revealed a significant effect for vowels and for context across all reading conditions in Arabic and Hebrew. The surprising result was that the vowelized texts in Arabic and the pointed and unpointed texts in Hebrew were comprehended significantly better. Further, Pearson correlation procedures and multiple regression analysis indicated no positive significant relationship between oral reading accuracy results and silent reading comprehension results. These findings are explained through characteristics of the Semitic languages Arabic and Hebrew, and the triliteral/quadriliteral-root model is suggested to explain reading in unvowelized/unpointed texts in Semitic languages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-59
Number of pages21
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Context
  • Different orthographies
  • Reading Semitic languages
  • Triliteral/quadriliteral-root model
  • Vowels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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