The Universal and the unique in dyslexia: A cross-linguistic
investigation of reading and reading ﬂuency in Hebrew-and
English-speaking children with reading disorders
, SHELLY SHAUL
, ZVIA BREZNITZ
Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts;
Haifa University, Israel;
Department of Child Development, Tufts
University, Medford, Massachusetts
Abstract. Cross-linguistic studies provide a unique tool for the identiﬁcation of uni-
versal processes in oral and written language, both in development and in breakdown
(Annual Review of psychology, 52, 369–396). Examining the diﬀerential strengths and
weaknesses of children with dyslexia in contrasting orthographies can help illumine
both the more universal aspects of reading disabilities, as well as their individual lan-
guage-speciﬁc attributes. The aim of this study, was to investigate the shared and dis-
tinctive characteristics of readers with dyslexia on reading and reading ﬂuency across
Hebrew and English orthographies. Diﬀerences between 60 Hebrew and English-
speaking children with dyslexia on a battery of cognitive, linguistic, and reading
measures will be discussed along with theoretical implications.
Key words: Cross-linguistics, Dyslexia, English, Hebrew, Reading ﬂuency
No orthography appears immune to reading disorders. It is well docu-
mented that developmental reading disabilities are a problem with glo-
bal dimensions (Breznitz, 1997a, 1997b; Holopainen, Ahonen, &
Lyytinen, 2001; Tressoldi, Stella, & Fagggella, 2001; Wimmer, 1993).
Emerging data is beginning to show that dyslexia is manifested in dis-
tinctively varied ways in diﬀerent languages: for example, incidence,
proportion, and severity of the various deﬁcit types and very impor-
tantly, source of impairment.
Until recently phonological processes were considered the primary
source of dyslexia, a ﬁnding that is extensively demonstrated in English.
Cross-linguistic research, however, begins to question the universality
of this widely accepted assumption. Recent ﬁndings indicate that purely
phonological deﬁcits are less manifested in languages which are
Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17: 739–768, 2004.
Ó 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.