c0 ls0 ws7">The phonological pattern is constructed of: a) short vowels built
onto roots; b) patterns that include vowel letters, which are
inserted between the root consonants; c) the phonological proc-
ess does not break the orthographic order of the consonantal
root (example, the verb 
/inkataba/ has been written—the
passive form of 
/kataba/wrote/). With inserted vowels the
phonological pattern of the infixes breaks the orthographic
order of the consonantal root (example, the noun 
writer/). Further, additional patterns with vowel letters that may
added as prefixes or suffixes—in this case (example, the noun
/maktoub/written-letter). The root conveys the initial le-
xical access and the combination of roots and phonological
patterns conveys specific semantics (Frost, Forster, & Deutsch,
The derivational morphology has two types of word patterns:
verbal word patterns and nominal word patterns. There are 15
frequent verbal word patterns in Arabic. Each verbal word pat-
tern determines the inflectional pattern of the word (Abd El-
Minem, 1987; Isa, 2000; Madkor, 1987). The verb pattern con-
veys basic semantics via verb roots, and it can change the
meaning of a new word based on that root; different verb pat-
terns built on the same root may convey different semantics
(Abd El-Minem, 1987; Isa, 2000; Madkor, 1987). There are
nine nominal word patterns. There is semantic consistency in
all these different nominal word patterns (Bentin & Frost,
1995), some of which are more common than others. The deri-
vations of nouns are constructed in two ways, one by addition
of nominal patterns to the base roots and one by changing the
past tense to the present tense by applying a phonological pat-
tern to the latter (Abd El-Minem, 1987; Isa, 2000; Madkor,
Inflectional morphology. In contrast to the derivational proc-
ess, in which the basic constituents are roots and word patterns,
the inflectional morphological system in Arabic is constructed
by attaching prefixes and suffixes to real words. The system of
inflectional morphology of verbs is systematic and considers
person, number, gender and time. In the past tense, inflectional
morphology shows person, number, and gender through the
addition of suffixes to the basic verb pattern (third person mas-
culine singular. Example: the word
/kataba/ he wrote
changes to
/katabat/ she wrote). In future and present
tenses of verbs, the inflectional morphology is also according to
person, number, and gender, indicated by prefixes and some-
times suffixes (for example:
/yaktobo/ he writes/ changes
/taktobo/ she writes/). The imperative mood is
formed for person, number, and gender by the addition of pre-
fixes and suffixes (for example:
/oktob/ write (masculine)
change into
/oktobey/ write (feminine ending) (Abd
El-Minem, 1987; Isa, 2000; Madkor, 1987). The inflectional
morphological system of nouns considers gender (masculine/
feminine), number (singular/plural), masculine and feminine
and pairs masculine/feminine.
Table 1 shows how the root /k-t-b/ changes using the noun
pattern “writer” for gender and number.
Most verbs and the majority of nouns are constructed out of
three consonant roots, occasionally two or four. Roots are built
in phonological patterns to create specific words. These pat-
terns may be a series of consonants or a series of vowels and
consonants. As for roots and morphemic word patterns, most
words in Arabic are constructed of two morphemes: the com-
bination of a root and a word pattern creates a certain word.
Different morphemes convey different types of information: the
root conveys semantic information then the phonological pat-
tern which determines the core meaning of the word (Abu-
Rabia, 2002, 2001), whereas the word patterns usually convey
information on word class.
In sum, the combination of morphological units in Arabic is
not linear. It relies on intertwining between two independent
morphemes (the root and the word pattern). The order of root
letters is dependent upon the word pattern and its way of inter-
twining with the root. The word pattern can be built of prefixes,
suffixes and infixes whose intertwining with the root can break
the order of the root letters (Feldman & Bentin, 1994).
Review of the Literature
Phonological decoding. Phonological decoding ability is es-
sential in the process of reading acquisition (Abu-Rabia, 1995,
2001; Jorm & Share, 1983; Perfetti, 1985; Share, 1995). It is
well established in the literature that measuring pseudoword
reading is the benchmark test of children’s phonological de-
coding skill (Abu-Rabia, 1995; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987).
Many studies have been conducted using pseudowords as their
phonological decoding measure among normal readers and
reading-disabled (RD) children (Bruck, 1988, 1990; Castles &
Coltheart, 1993; Ehri & Wilce, 1983; Jorm & Share, 1983;
Share, 1985; Perfetti, 1985; Siegel, 1989; Siegel & Ryan, 1988;
Stanovich & Siegel, 1994). The difficulty these RD children
have in reading pseudowords seems to be the result of deficien-
cies in their basic phonological processing.
Table 1.
Root /k-t-b/ changes, gender, and number.
Gender/Number Singular Pairs Plural
Masculine /kateb/ /kateban/ /katebon/
Feminine /kateba/ /katebatan/ /Katebat/
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Orthographic processing. The orthographic component makes
an important contribution to reading over and above phono-
logical decoding (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990; Stanovich
& West, 1989). In spite of the different orthographic testing
measures, specific orthographic knowledge and orthographic
combination however, the results for disabled readers are simi-
lar in many studies. On orthographic measures, RD children
performed as well as or even better than their normal counter-
parts matched by reading-level age (Abu-Rabia, 1995; Siegel,
1986). Their performance was poorer, however than that of
their chronological age counterparts. Thus, RD children are re-
latively better at visual-orthographic processing than phono-
logical processing.
Syntax. Studies measuring syntactic ability in normal and RD
students have all resulted in superior performance by normal
readers (Abu-Rabia, 1995; Bentin, Deutsch, & Liberman, 1990;
Deutsch & Bentin, 1996; Fowler, 1988; Menyuk, 1981; Siegel
& Ryan, 1988; Stanovich & Siegel, 1994; Vellutino, 1979;
Vogel, 1974; Willows & Ryan, 1981), although the interpreta-
tion of these findings has been controversial (Bryant, Maclean,
& Bradley, 1990).
Phonological Awareness. Phonological awareness is the
knowledge that spoken words are composed of phonemes and
syllables, operationalized as the ability to analyze words into
phonemes and syllables (Hakes, 1982; Mattingly, 1984). Chil-
dren first focus on the content and use of words, and only later
notice the phonological structure of the language; next they
learn that utterances are composed of words that may even
rhyme with one another. This ability is realized when children
notice the structure of the spoken language and acquire some
control over phoneme manipulation (Liberman, Shankweiler,
Fischer, & Carter, 1974; Menyuk, Chesnick, Liebergott, Korn-
gold, D’Agostino, & Belanger, 1991).
Morphology. Morphology describes words’ morphemes, which
are the basic semantic units of the language (Hockett, 1958).
RD individuals have difficulty dealing with morphology (Le-
ong, 1989). Their reading process is dependent on their ability
to apply morphological rules of the language (Abu-Rabia &
Taha, 2004; Vogel, 1975, 1983).
Ben-Dror and her colleagues tested morphology, phonology,
and semantics of Hebrew in 60 students who were divided into
three sub-groups: a group of RD children in grade 5, a control
group of normal readers matched by chronological age, and a
younger control group matched by reading level. The RD chil-
dren performed poorly compared to the chronological-age con-
trol group and were slower than the younger control group. The
most significant differences were found in the morphological
tasks (Abu-Rabia, Share, & Mansour, 2003; Ben-Dror et al.,
Working memory. This ability involves executive control of
processing cognitive ability, which helps to control all opera-
tions performed in tasks such as reading (Baddeley & Hitch,
1974). Many studies investigating working memory among RD
children have found impaired working memory performance as
compared with normal readers (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002,
2003; Abu-Rabia, 1995; Brady, Mann, & Schmidt, 1987; Cer-
mac, 1983; Daneman, Carpenter, & Just, 1982; Holligan &
Johnston, 1988; Jorm & Share, 1983).
Visual-orthographic processing. There is some evidence, al-
though not consistently replicated, of deficiencies in basic vis-
ual processing in RD children (Crammond, 1992; Fletcher,
1985; Lovegrove, 1993; Meyler, 1993; Meyler & Breznitz,
1998). In a longitudinal study conducted in Hebrew, Meyler
and Breznitz (1998) tested the development of visual and verbal
memory in children followed from kindergarten to grade 2.
They found positive significant predictive correlations between
both visual and verbal ability and reading. An important differ-
ence between English and Hebrew is worth noting: pointed
Hebrew writing may require unique visuo-spatial processing
due to the visual complexity of vowel diacritics (Share & Levin,
1999). We expect a similar behavior in reading vowelized Ara-
bic orthography (Abu-Rabia & Taha, 2006; Ibrahim, Eviatar, &
Aharon-Peretz, 2002).
Defining Reading Disability
Reading disability is conventionally defined as “difficulty in
acquiring reading skills in spite of being taught by conventional
methods, good intellectual abilities and acceptable societal
occasions” (Critchley, 1970). This definition implicitly assumes
that IQ represents learning potential (Stanovich, 1991). Nowa-
days, developmental and educational psychologists oppose the
view that the IQ test measures intellectual potential (Anastasi,
1988; Cronbach, 1984; Siegel, 1999; Stanovich, 1991; Thorn-
dike, 1986) and should only be viewed as a raw measure of
present cognitive functioning (Detterman, 1982; Humphreys,
1979). The decision to use a specific reading disability group in
the present study was not based on the conservative rationale of
the importance of IQ, but on the rationale that this specific
reading disability group was a relatively pure one, and this
would enable us to study methodologically the specific charac-
teristics of poor reading not caused by factors associated with
general cognitive delay.
The Present Study
The characteristics of Arabic RD children have not been
largely studied. The present study compared three different
groups: reading-disabled Arab children, normal readers mat-
ched by chronological age, and normal readers matched by
reading level. On the basis of our brief literature review we
expected to find many similarities in the reading-related deficits
in English orthography and the Arabic orthography (principally
phonological and orthographic), as both are alphabetical scripts.
Some inconsistencies were also expected, however, due to the
nature of Arabic orthography. We expected that RD children
would perform significantly worse in word recognition and
many basic cognitive processes than chronological-age-matched
normal readers and younger reading-level-matched normal
readers. In the orthographic processing task, however, RD chil-
dren were expected to perform the same as or better than
younger normal readers. In contrast, on word recognition proc-
esses (phonological decoding) and cognitive processing, read-
ing-disabled children were expected to perform significantly
worse than younger normal readers. Because the Arabic writing
system is visually complex (connection of letters and short vo-
welization), significant relationships between visual processing
and reading in the Arabic language were predicted. Namely,
RD children were expected to show more difficulties in those
tasks than normal readers matched by both chronological age
and reading level.
Sampling. The initial sample of the study was 221 students,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1261
116 from grade 8 and 105 from grade 6. Among the eighth
graders, 27 students were screened as dyslexic readers and 31
students as their chronological age-matched group. Among the
sixth graders, 29 students were screened as the young reading-
level matched group.
were presented. Each list included 26 pairs of pseudowords and
only one pseudoword sounded like a real word. One list was
presented with full vowelization and the other without (example:
 
- /raqsaton/ resembles the word 
 
/raqsaton/ a
dance/, the other pseudoword /raqshaton/ is the wrong answer.
The letters , might be homophones and resemble in their
representation the sound /s/).
The dyslexic group. The dyslexic children were diagnosed in
their school. All the students (n = 116) were tested and 27 of
them were diagnosed as dyslexic readers; 10 females and 17
males. Their mean chronological age in years was 13.91 (SD =
0.43). The screened dyslexic group was comparable to grade 6
in their reading age based on their reading performance on a
written test and a list of isolated words (Abu-Rabia, 2005).
Pseudoword reading. This test was built for the purposes of
this study. Four lists of pseudowords were constructed, 30
items in each list. The first two lists included pseudowords with
real roots, one fully vowelized ( = 0.96) and one without vow-
elization ( = 0.93). The other two lists included false roots,
one list with full vowelization ( = 0.95) (for example, 
 
/estafrabat/) and the other without ( = 0.93) (for example,
 /et-hab/).
The additional criterion for the screened participants was
their performance on general ability tests (see Table 1). The
dyslexic group showed adequate performance on the Raven,
Raven & Court (1993) and the visual perception test (Beery,
Isolated words. Two lists of words were constructed for this
study, with 40 words in each; one list was with full voweliza-
tion ( = 0.96, for example: 
/ramzan/ symbol) and the
other was without ( = 0.96, for example: 
/yastakshifon/-discovering). Both lists were constructed on the
basis of gradually increasing difficulty.
The Control Groups
Reading-level-matched. From the initial sample of 105 stu-
dents from grade 6, a group of 29 was selected that matched the
dyslexic readers from grade 8 (n = 29) in their reading per-
formance. There were 17 females and 12 males, with a mean
age in years of 12.08 (SD = 0.16). This young group showed
reading ability similarity to the dyslexic readers but differed on
the general ability tests (Raven, Raven, & Court, 1993; Beery,
Age-matched. From the initial sample of 116 students from
grade 8, 31 students, 15 females and 16 males, were screened
based on their performance on the general ability tests. Their
mean age in years 13.72 (SD = 0.40). The screened participants
were similar in their general ability performance to the dyslexic
readers (see Table 2).
In order to test the performance differences between the
groups, t-test procedures were used. The results showed that
there were no significant differences between the dyslexic
group and the chronological age-matched group on the general
ability tests; however, they differed significantly on the reading
measures (p < 0.05). However, the differences between the
dyslexic group and the reading-level-matched group on the
same tests, general ability and reading, revealed significant
differences (p < 0.05). The results validate the suitability of the
three groups to our study.
Testing Tool
The Raven-R (Raven, Raven, & Court, 1993) tests the non-
verbal thinking level: the ability to create comparisons, analo-
gies, inductions and deductions.
Phonological awareness ( = 0.77). Two lists of pseudowords
Table 2.
Means and standard deviations of the three groups on reading and gen-
eral ability tests.
Tests Dyslexic
(n = 27)
Reading level
(n = 29)
(n = 31)
Raven 37.44 (8.97) 30.52 (7.39) 40.19 (6.84)
Visual perception 23.92 (2.46) 22.03 (1.96) 24.74 (1.39)
Reading 54.88 (9.66) 53.09 (5.23) 84.86 (3.43)
Spelling. A list of 40 words of gradually increasing difficulty
was constructed ( = 0.82). The words were selected from the
basal reader of grade 8.
Words that do not fit the context. Two lists of sentences were
constructed that included words that did not fit the context (for
example: 
 
 
 —the worker used
cotton in manufacturing tires). One list was presented with full
vowelization ( = 0.97) and the other one without vowelization
( = 0.92). Each list included 30 sentences.
Working memory. This test was based on the idea of Siegel
and Ryan (1989). An Arabic version was adapted. The partici-
pants were presented with sentences orally with the final word
missing; they had to supply it and repeat all the missing words
from the set. There were three trials in each set size (2, 3, 4 and
 ________. we go fishing in the ____
   _______. we go to the bookstore to buy ____
Morphological identification. Four lists of words were pre-
sented. The participants had to identify the root of each word.
The first two lists included 36 words each; the first was fully
vowelized ( = 0.83) and the other was not ( = 0.84, for ex-
ample: 
—/alkanz/ the treasure—the answer is k-n-z 
there are no letters interrupting the root, only short vowels).
The other two lists included 40 words each, and words were
based on disrupted roots: one list was presented fully vowelized
( = 0.92) and the other without ( = 0.90, for example: 
 -
/shaahada/ witnessed/ the answer is /sh-h-d/ the letter // aa/
interrupted the root).
Morphological production. A list of 40 roots was presented
where the participants had to derive words from each root in the
list ( = 0.88), for example:  /a’dad/number/ the answers
could be:  /aa’ad/ numbers/, 
/a’deed/a lot of ···/, 
/tea’dad/ counting/, 
/mea’dd/ counting machine/etc.).
Syntax. Two lists of sentences were presented; one with full
vowelization ( = 0.75) and one without ( = 0.83). Each list
consisted of 30 sentences, half of which had syntactic errors.
The participants had to judge whether the sentence was syntac-
tically correct (example:  
- there are in
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1263
my school a chairs and a table. The right sentence should be:
 
- there are in my school chairs and
Orthographic awareness. Two lists of homophonic words
were constructed. Each list consisted of 22 pairs of correct and
misspelled homophonic words. One list was fully vowelized (
= 0.86) and the other was not ( = 0.72). The participants had to
choose the word that was spelled correctly (example: 
—cried—the underlined word in the right one).
Reading comprehension. Two tests were chosen from the
students’ basal reader for grade 8. Both texts were equal in
length, 16 lines each. One text was with full vowelization ( =
0.71) and the other was without ( = 0.75). Both texts were
informative; one text was about computers and the other was
about cars.
The testing procedures were conducted at the school in a
quiet room dedicated specifically for the purpose of this study.
Testing took place during the regular school days of the week.
Tests were conducted on a one-on-one basis, except for spelling,
morphological, orthographic, syntax and reading comprehen-
sion tests which were conducted in groups. The order of the
tests was counterbalanced across participants. All the reading
aloud measures (the one-on-one tests) were tape recorded.
The data was analyzed with the SPSS statistical package.
Multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to test the
differences between and within groups on all measures. In ad-
dition, to locate the source of variance, the Tukey post hoc test
was used. Further, stepwise regression analysis was used to
locate the powerful predictors of word reading among the three
groups of the study.
Table 3 presents the means and standard deviations of the
three groups. A MANOVA revealed a main effect for voweli
Table 3.
Descriptive statistics of all groups on all measures.
Variables Dyslexics Reading Level Chronological Age F
Vowelized phonology 17.63
(1.57) 77.46***
Unvowelized phonology 14.96
(1.67) 66.85***
Vowelized orthography 19.07
(1.60) 2.06
Unvowelized orthography 16.48
(1.76) 5.82**
Vowelized syntax 16.96
(2.72) 40.25***
Unvowelized syntax 14.81
(3.40) 36.29***
Vowelized morphology with undisrupted root 31.15
(3.16) 12.74***
Unvowelized morphology with disrupted root 30.15
(3.43) 11.40***
Vowelized morphology with disrupted root 31.52
(4.09) 4.62*
Unvowelized morphology with disrupted root 31.52
(4.47) 8.53**
Vowelized reading comprehension 6.44
(0.77) 44.50***
Unvowelized reading comprehension 5.33
(1.19) 28.79***
Vowelized word reading 22.89
(2.49) 33.94***
Vowelized pseudoword with real root 19.11
(1.87) 62.70***
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