Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17: 593–615, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The importance of vowel diacritics for reading in Hebrew: What
can be learned from readers with prelingual deafness?
Department of Education, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Abstract. This study investigates the importance of vowel diacritics for the reading of Hebrew
in individuals with different levels of phonological control. A paradigm calling for written
ordered-recall of 12 lists of 8 consecutively displayed Hebrew nouns was used as a test tool.
Item presentation and between-item interval were computer-controlled. Half of the nouns
on the lists were presented with vowel diacritics designating their vowels. The remaining
nouns appeared with their vowel diacritics removed. Thirty-nine hearing students (mean
grade 6.5) and twenty-seven students with prelingual deafness (mean grade 6.9) participated
in the experiment. Analyses of the groups’ recall rate, recall-order accuracy, and intrusion
error rate indicate that, overall, adding vowel diacritics had a facilitating effect on the parti-
cipants’ quantitative and qualitative STM performance. Fine-tuned post-hoc examinations
further suggest that providing vowel diacritics may be particularly worthwhile for Hebrew
readers with impoverished reading skills. These ﬁndings are discussed with regard to their
implications for the reading of Hebrew.
Key words: Deafness, Hebrew, Pointing, Reading, STM, Vowel diacritics
There is now substantial evidence suggesting that the extraction of written
words’ meaning involves the activation of phonological representations
(Bentin & Ibrahim, 1996; Miller, 2002; Share, 1999; Tan & Perfetti, 1998;
Van Orden, 1987; Van Orden, Johnston & Hale, 1988; Van Orden, Stone,
Garlington, Markson, Pinnt & Simonfy, 1992; for reviews on this issue see
Perfetti & Sandak, 2000; Report of the National Reading Panel, 2000; Share
1995; Shimron, 1993; Snow, Burns & Grifﬁn, 1998). In particular, ﬁndings
pointing to a signiﬁcant, positive relationship between progress in learning to
read, level of reading comprehension, and individuals’ awareness of the phon-
ological structure of spoken words (Baddeley, Ellis, Miles & Lewis, 1982;
Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1995; Mann, Tobin & Wilson, 1987; Maclean,
Bryant & Bradley, 1987; for reviews see Share, 1995), have led to a rather
broad consensus that a failure in recoding written words’ graphemes into
sound-based representations (phonemes) is at the core of many severe reading
disorders (for reviews on this issue see Share 1995, 1999; Snow, Burns &
Grifﬁn, 1999; Perfetti & Sandak, 2000; Report of the National Reading Panel,