Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 16: 423–442, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Word recognition and basic cognitive processes among
reading-disabled and normal readers in Arabic
SALIM ABU-RABIA, DAVID SHARE and MAYSALOON SAID
Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Abstract. This study investigated word identiﬁcation in Arabic and basic cognitive processes
in reading-disabled (RD) and normal readers of the same chronological age, and in younger
normal readers at the same reading level. The study focused on the word identiﬁcation
processes of phonological decoding and orthographic processing and the cognitive processes
of syntactic and morphological awareness, working memory, and visual processing. RD
children were compared with normal readers on a battery of tests developed in Arabic on
the basis of those available in English and Hebrew. The present results revealed deﬁcien-
cies among the RD children in phonological decoding, in contrast to relative strengths in
orthographic processing. These data were consistent with English-language ﬁndings. The
analysis of basic cognitive processes indicated signiﬁcant deﬁciencies in morphology, working
memory, and syntactic and visual processing, with the most severe deﬁciencies observed for
phonological awareness. The results are discussed in light of international RD ﬁndings and
the nature of Arabic orthography.
Key words: Arabic dyslexia, Arabic morphology, Arabic phonology, Basic cognitive
processes, Dyslexia in different orthographies
This study investigated some basic cognitive processes of normal-reading and
reading-disabled children in Arabic. Basic word recognition and cognitive
processes have rarely been studied in Arabic (Abu-Rabia, 1995). We are
unaware of any study of the characteristics of the dyslexic Arabic reader. Such
study would enrich our understanding of both the universal and the language-
speciﬁc aspects of reading. We examined phonological and orthographic
processes in word recognition, and, on the cognitive level, syntax, phono-
logical awareness, morphological awareness, working memory, and visual
memory. Investigation of these abilities in Arabic among normal and dyslexic
readers requires a basic exposition of the nature of Arabic orthography
(Abu-Rabia, 1997, 2001).