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Word Recognition in Arabic: Approaching a Language-Specific Reading Model

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Handbook of Arabic Literacy

Part of the book series: Literacy Studies ((LITS,volume 9))

Abstract

This chapter makes an attempt to explain reading processes and specifically word recognition with specific reference to Arabic. A short historical outline of word recognition theory is presented and critical theoretical aspects are examined in order to question the universality of the dominating theories about how word recognition processes proceed at the cognitive level during reading. Then, a connectionist word recognition model giving letter recognition particular consideration is outlined, and from this theoretical perspective a language specific description of word recognition in Arabic is proposed, with consideration given to the specific features of both Arabic script and Semitic morphology, using our knowledge of reading in English as a comparative framework.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This tendency is expressed in a variant of the ODH called the script dependence hypothesis (e.g., in Gholamain and Geva 1999; Geva and Siegel 2000).

  2. 2.

    Additionally, the connectionist reading model represented in Fig. 3.2 accounts for reading aloud as a phenomenon that might involve all elements in the word recognition process without necessarily involving meaning (in opposition to prior reading models in which this aspect was either ignored or illustrated less convincingly, e.g., in Rayner and Pollatsek 1989, p. 92 & 461–473).

  3. 3.

    [1]Throughout the chapter, “European languages” is used to refer roughly to “Indo-European languages written in Latin script”.

  4. 4.

    A study of foreign language learners’ reading of Arabic reveals that, for beginning and intermediate learners, vowelled text is in fact less rapidly processed than unvowelled text (Hansen 2010). This indicates that vowelisation is in fact a cognitively demanding factor during the reading process. However, in highly proficient L2 learners and native speakers, the resource of information that vowels provide overrules the issue of graphic complexity.

  5. 5.

    Note that in both European and Semitic languages there are in fact words—especially loan-words—which are valid despite the fact that they do not accord with established grapho- and phonotactic constraints, e.g., in Arabic ‘ديمقراطية’ (“democracy”) and in English “phthalates”.

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Funder Hansen, G. (2014). Word Recognition in Arabic: Approaching a Language-Specific Reading Model. In: Saiegh-Haddad, E., Joshi, R. (eds) Handbook of Arabic Literacy. Literacy Studies, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-8545-7_3

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