How do different cognitive and linguistic variables contribute to reading in Arabic? A cross-sectional study from first to sixth grade
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The contribution of linguistic and cognitive variables to reading processes might vary depending on the particularities of the languages studied. This view is thought to be particularly true for Arabic which is a diglossic language and has particular orthographic and morpho-syntactic systems. This cross-sectional study examined the contribution of phonological, orthographic, morphological, semantic, syntactic, visual perception, rapid automatic naming and phonological working memory abilities to decoding and fluency (the two components of reading). The results, obtained from 1305 native Arabic-speaking children in first–sixth grade, were analyzed using path models. The analysis revealed that memory and orthographic knowledge contributed to both components of reading, while phonological awareness contributed mainly to decoding and rapid automatic naming contributed to fluency. The contribution of morphology to the two components, which appeared already in the first grade, was weak and inconsistent. Finally, the results showed that visual perception, semantics, and syntax predicted neither decoding nor fluency. The data presented here suggest that reading development in Arabic differs from other languages, a finding that might explain certain difficulties in reading acquisition in Arabic. The results are discussed in the light of previous findings in the literature and the specific features of Arabic.
KeywordsCognitive variables Phonological awareness Arabic orthography Arabic morphology Arabic diglossia
Funding was provided by Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 623/11). This research was also partially supported by the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities, Haifa. The authors would like to thank Mrs Claudia Hariel for her administrative assistance during this research project.
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