2013. Vol.4, No.12, 1018-1026
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.412148
Investigating Cognitive Processes Underlying Reading in Arabic:
Evidence from Typical and Poor Reading Performance
1The Cognitive Lab for Reading and Learning-Sakhnin College for Teachers’ Education, Sakhnin, Israel
2Safra Brain Research Center for Learning Disabilities-Haifa University, Haifa, Israel
Received August 23rd, 2103; revised September 27th, 2013; accepted October 24th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Haitham Taha. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Haitham Taha. All Copyright © 2013 are
guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
The current study has examined by which cognitive factors at the field of phonological and visual proc-
essing, rapid automatized naming and morphological awareness, contribute to reading and decoding abili-
ties among typical and poor native Arabic readers. In the current study, the performances of two groups of
participants, typical and poor readers were compared through tasks that examined their performance with
regard to the areas of functions mentioned above in addition to other tasks that examined their perform-
ance in reading meaningful and pseudo words. The study’s results have indicated that the visual and pho-
nological processing skills play an important role in reading among typical and poor readers as well.
Moreover, it was found that the visual and phonological processing skills of participants with poor read-
ing skills were lower in comparison to participants with typical reading abilities.
Keywords: Phonological Processing; Morphological Processing; Visual Processing; R.A.N; Arabic
The process of reading acquisition is regarded as complex
and relies on the development of various cognitive processes.
Many researchers suggest that during the process of reading
acquisition, the reader learns the written representation of the
phonemes of which the spoken words are composed, as during
the process of reading, the reader can decode these phonemes
according to the graphemes that represent them (Ziegler &
Goswami, 2005). The reader can correctly pronounce written
words through processes of sequential blending (Adams, 1990;
Bradely & Bryant, 1978; Coltheart, 2005; Lundberg, Olofsson,
& Wall, 1980; Snowling, 2001; Stanovich, 1986; Treiman,
Many researchers also suggest that normal development of
phonological processing skills, such as phonemic segmentation
and phonemic blending, is acquired as the reader enjoys a nor-
mal phonological awareness regarding the speaking sounds
which composed the spoken words (Abu-Rabia & Taha, 2004,
2006; Goswami & Bryant, 1990; Share, 1995; Snowling, Gou-
landris, & Defty, 1996; Stanovich, 1988; Wagner & Torgesen,
1987; Ziegler & Goswami, 2005). Those phonological proc-
essing skills are found to be main contributor to reading acqui-
sition in several alphabetic orthographies and are affected mu-
tually by the exposure to print (Ziegler et al., 2010; Ziegler &
Goswami, 2005). Accordingly, the study at the field of the
reading acquisition and its development discerns that among
readers with difficulties, particularly those with reading disabil-
ity, an inadequate performance in tasks that investigate phono-
logical awareness was found (Snowling, 2001; Stanovich, 1986;
Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, & Scanlon, 2004).
Along with the previous assumption, Snowling (2001) sug-
gests that heterogeneity between various readers concerning the
control of the processes of phonological processing distin-
guishes between the sub populations of readers in the extent of
their reading skills. In addition, such heterogeneity illustrates
that readers with reading disability suffer from inadequate de-
velopment of processes of phonological processing, as the level
of difficulty in reading among this group is measured by the
extent of inadequacy in these processes of processing.
Consistent with Snowling’s assumption, research evidence
argues that individual differences in the processes of reading
and spelling are related to the processes of phonological proc-
essing (Goswami & Bryant, 1990; Share, 1995; Snowling,
Goulandris, & Defty, 1996; Stanovich, 1988; Wagner & Tor-
Appropriately, different developmental models in reading
development (for example: Ehri, 1999; Frith, 1985), suggest
that formation of a skilled reader is a matter of a transition from
logographic stage where the child can identify forms of words
that are familiar in his/her surrounding as symbols (such as
his/her name etc.) to the alphabetic stage where the reader
learns the letter-sound relationship and that reading of words
becomes a matter of a process of phonological decoding that
basically relies on a phonemic processes of segmentation and
blending according to the grapheme sequence (the letters) and
the pattern of the written word. By the repeated exposure to the
patterns of words in the case of normal processes of reading
and a normal development of the processes of decoding at the
alphabetic stage, the child stores these patterns of words to
which he/she was exposed during the process of reading. Con-
sequently as children read these words again, they can more
accurately and swiftly identify the pattern of the word accord-
ing to its orthographic structure. This stage is called the ortho-
graphic stage or the consolidated one (Ehri, 1999; Frith,
Various researchers argue that in spite of the significant role
of the phonological awareness in controlling the processes of
reading, it is important to consider the contribution of other
linguistic variables in achieving fluency in reading. In recent
years, the research conducted in the field of reading acquisition
highlights the importance of the morphological awareness and
the development of the morphological lexicon among readers
for the purpose of a normal acquisition of reading skills (Ben-
Dror, Bentin, & Frost, 1995; Elbro & Arnbak, 1996; Levin,
Ravid, & Rapaport, 2001; Nunes & Bryant, 2009; Ravid, 2001;
Senechal, 2000; Taha & Siaegh-Haddad, submitted; Treiman &
Bourassa, 2000). The results of the studies that examined the
reading acquisition among novice readers indicated that chil-
dren eventually have a good intuitive knowledge regarding the
morphology of the language (Clark & Hecht, 1982). Accord-
ingly, Carlisle (1995) points out that the extent of the morpho-
logical awareness at kindergarten years, which was measured
by tasks of morphological differentiation successfully predicts
the ability in reading comprehension at the second grade. In
other words, the morphological awareness strengthens the skills
that are related to reading such as the identification of words
and even meta-linguistic ability such as reading comprehension
(Tong et al., 2011).
In addition, consistent with the approach which suggests that
individual differences in reading abilities are produced as a
result of a variation in the extent of the control of the processes
of phonological processing (Goswami & Bryant, 1990; Share,
1995; Snowling, Goulandis, & Defty, 1996; Stanovich, 1988;
Wagner & Torgesen, 1987), other researchers suggest that dif-
ferences in the processes of morphological processing and
morphological awareness contribute to inter-personal differ-
ences in the processes of literacy skills (Nunes, Bryant, &
Lindman, 2006; Rubin, 1991).
Other researchers argue that in addition to the contribution of
processes of phonological and morphological processing to
reading, other processes also predict reading such as automati-
zation and the speed of retrieval and naming, particularly pho-
nological naming to repeated visually presented forms (Denckla
& Cutting, 1999; Wolf, Bowers, & Biddle, 2000). The argu-
ment of researchers who advocate the approach of the speed of
retrieval and naming indicates that the process of phonological
naming according to visual labels as measured in tasks of rapid
naming (Denckla & Rudel, 1974), is sort of analogy to the
process of reading in which the reader is required to match the
sound to the visual clue (The letter or the written form of
words). On the other hand, such tasks can predict the success in
the acquisition of skills of decoding and letter-sound relation-
ship in the process of reading (Bowers & Newby-Clark, 2002).
However, for the process of verbal retrieval according to the
visual labels to occur, the verbal and visual processes need to
occur simultaneously, a situation similar to the process of read-
ing written words (for more details, see Breznitz, 2006). This
process of timing or “synchronization” between the phonologi-
cal processes and the processes of visual processing of the
forms of word is considered as a fundamental process, as it may
enable the reader to read words efficiently. Breznitz (2006)
argues that the lack of synchronization between the processes
certainly leads to a loss of the phonological and visual knowl-
edge needed for reading words due to the limitation of the
working memory. Therefore, there is a need for a “quick” work
on this synchronized system to prevent inconsistency between
the visual and phonological processes as the outcome could be
a difficulty in reading words. This pace of work is called speed
of processing (SOP) (Breznitz, 2006).
Eventually, it can be inferred that similar to explanations
about the variation in the reading ability based on the approach
of phonological processing, mentioned above, and the approach
of morphological processing and the speed of retrieval, SOP
indicates that variation in the speed of processing is a possible
source for variation in reading ability since it is a possible rea-
son for disability in synchronization between the processes
during the processing of words. The processes of synchroniza-
tion deal with the visual-phonological synchronization in the
process of processing of words, though other researchers argue
that the processes of visual processing are at the center of proc-
esses of reading and proved significant and distinctive in iden-
tifying normal readers and readers with difficulties (Everatt et
al., 1999; Heiervang & Hugdahl, 2003; Jaœkowski & Rusiak,
A central research approach at the field of psychology of
reading indicates that these processes of phonological decoding
that occur during identification of words and the processing of
the patterns of written words are directed through the resources
of visual attention that need to be sufficiently available during
the process (for more details, see Everatt, 1999). During read-
ing, the process of words identification starts with the visual
processing of the orthographic form of words. The eyes scan
the written form through a series of movements of fixation and
saccades. As the eyes are fixed on the word during the scanning,
the situation is called fixation and as the eyes move toward the
following word, the situation is called saccadic movement.
These two movements of the eyes, fixation and saccades, play a
significant role in centering the pattern of the scanned word at
the fovea, the eye’s most sensitive position, for the purpose of
increasing the possibility that the word will be processed to the
maximum. The success of the process of visual scanning neces-
sitates mobilization of sufficient resources of visual attention.
On the other hand, research on the psychology of reading indi-
cates that disabilities in the processes of visual attention disturb
the movements of the eyes during the process of reading of
words (Everatt, et al., 1999; Heiervang & Hugdahl, 2003;
Jaœkowski & Rusiak, 2005). Besides, the research in the field
of psychophysiology and neuropsychology indicates that the
visual areas at parietal lobes of the brain are related to focusing
the movements of the eyes and to processes of visual attention
(Glickstein, 2000; Goodale & Milner, 2004; Milner & Goodale,
1995). Beside, Kinsey et al., (2004) argue that the function of
visual attention is particularly important during reading new
words and pseudo words. The failure of readers with reading
disability in reading pseudo words can be attributed to their
failure in processes of visual processing of the written words’
orthographic form (Heiervang & Hugdahl, 2003).
This failure in the processes of processing that rely on proc-
esses of visual attention during reading leads to failure in de-
Open Access 1019
tecting the position of the letter in the word, a thing that leads to
reading errors of letters transposition and migration (Friedman
& Gvion, 2001). Studies that compared the performances of
readers with reading disability versus normal readers in tasks
that examined the processes of visual attention and spatial
processing indicated that readers with reading disability
achieved lower performance than readers with normal reading
ability (Facoetti & Turatto, 2000; Vidyasagar & Pammer,
Consistent with the above mentioned review, it can be indi-
cated that the research regarding the study of reading acquisi-
tion and the skills of recognition of words emphasizes the de-
velopment of a variety of cognitive process. Accordingly and in
light of the abovementioned review, the current study seeks to
investigate by which phonological processing, automatized na-
ming, morphological awareness and visual processes contribute
to the ability of reading new unfamiliar words as well as famil-
iar words in Arabic orthography which has unique characteris-
tics. Hence, this study tries to identify the implications of the
unique orthographic and linguistic characteristics of the written
Arabic language on the cognitive processes related to the read-
Reading in Arabic Orthography
Studies in the field of reading in Arabic orthography argue
that the process of phonological processing is significantly
related to the processes of reading in Arabic orthography (Abu-
Rabia, 2001, 1997a, 1997b, 2007). Furthermore, other re-
searchers argue that the development of phonological aware-
ness, at the center of the processes of phonological processing,
among native Arab readers is highly influenced from diglossia;
a situation that may be clearly manifested during the acquisition
of reading and spelling (Abu-Rabia & Taha, 2005; Saiegh-
Haddad, 2003, 2004). In unique linguistic situation of the Ara-
bic language, the distance within different linguistic domains
between the spoken language and dialect to the written lan-
guage acquired by children at the formal framework of school
is a classic situation of diglossia (Ayari, 1996; Ferguson, 1959;
Taha, 2013). Other studies also suggest that process of mor-
phological processing have high importance regarding control-
ling processes of reading at the Arabic orthographic system,
due to the morphological richness of the Arabic language (for
more details, see Abu-Rabia, 2007; Abu-Rabia & Taha, 2005;
Taha, 2013). Beside to the specific linguistic features of the
Arabic language and their effect on reading, recent studies
suggest that the specific orthographic features of the written
Arabic may affect the process of word recognition in Arabic
(Ibrahim, Eviatar, & Aharon Peretz, 2002; Taha, Ibrahim, &
Khateb, 2013). Two main unique features are account within
this frame, the level of connectedness of the letters within the
word and the existence of dots and vowelization marks above
and below the letters within the written word. A former study
conducted by Ibrahim, Eviatar and Aharon-Peretz (2002)
showed that the orthographic structure of the Arabic language
may decelerate the pace of the visual processing during reading.
While other studies found that this effect of orthographic struc-
ture on word recognition might be modulated by development
and exposure to print (Khateb et al., Submitted). Yet, so far
studies have not investigated the contribution of processes of
visual processing and the speed of naming according to visual
stimuli besides the contribution of the processes of phonologi-
cal and morphological processing to the ability of reading and
decoding, neither familiar nor unfamiliar words, in the Arabic
language. Also, investigating the differences of the contribution
of the abovementioned factors to reading among typical readers
versus poor readers have not been conducted. It should be noted
that a study conducted by Abu-Rabia, Share and Mansour,
(2003) examined the processes of performance in tests of visual
memory among typical readers and readers with reading dis-
ability at the same chronologic age group and reading age and
their contribution to reading words, as no differences were
found in the performances of participant in the tests of visual
memory. The study of Abu-Rabia and his colleagues focuses on
examining the process of global and analytical visual memory
but it does not directly focus on examining the processes of
sequential visual scanning and search. While the process of
orthographic processing of the orthographic words patterns
relies on processes of visual scanning and processing and se-
quential visual processing in addition to processes of visual
identification. Accordingly, due to the fact of the orthographic
complexity of the written Arabic, where letters shapes changes
according to their position in the written form and according to
the letters that precede and follow them. And due to the visual
intensity that exists as a result of the vowelization marks above
and under the letters within the written words. Accordingly, the
current study assumes that the processes of visual sequential
processing and distinction will have an essential contribution to
achieving efficient processes of reading in the Arabic language
beside to other cognitive abilities that were found to affect
reading in Arabic like the phonological and morphological
skills. In general, it is important to investigate the contribution
of the different cognitive and linguistic skills that were reported
during the abovementioned review on reading in Arabic or-
thography among typical and poor readers.
Participants. 67 native Arab children studying at Arab
school in north of Israel have participated in the study. The
participants were divided into two groups according based on
their performances in the test of reading words in context. From
the first sample, children whose performance was below 70% at
the task of reading meaningful words were defined as children
with reading difficulties. The chosen words were regarded as
highly frequent taken from pedagogical texts. A skilled reader
can identify these words at a high level of accuracy (Taha &
Saiegh-Haddad, Submitted). Thus readers whose percentage of
accuracy in reading these words is below 70% can be regarded
as reader with reading difficulty. The group of typical readers is
those who achieve above 90% in reading meaningful words.
The reading screening task included 60 meaningful punctuated
words (α = 0.82). The group of poor readers included 11 boys
and 21 girls whose age average was 12.04 (SD ± 0.29). The
group of typical readers included 18 boys and 17 girls whose
age average was 12.12 (SD ± 0.39) years old. All participants
were from the middle class of socioeconomic status.
The participants in the two groups took part in tasks that
examined reading meaningful words, pseudo words, processes
of phonological processing, automatic naming, orthographic
and morphological awareness and processes of visual process-
Procedure. The testing procedures were conducted at the
school in a quiet room dedicated specifically for the purpose of
current study. Testing procedure took place during the regular
school days of the week. Tests were conducted on a one-on-one
basis. The order of the tests was counterbalanced across par-
Material and Stimuli
Rapid Automatized Namin g ( R.A.N) (De n ck l a &
Naming of letters. A sheet of 5 Arabic letters, ten-times ran-
domly repeated, was presented before the participants, who was
asked to name the 50 letters at the fastest possible pace.
Digit naming. A sheet of 5 digits, ten-times randomly re-
peated was presented for each participant who was asked to
name the 50 digits at the fastest possible pace.
Naming of objects. A sheet of 5 pictures of objects ten-times
randomly repeated was presented before each participant who
was asked to name the 50 pictures at the fastest possible pace.
Phonemic Deletion. The test is composed from 20 items.
Within each item of the test, words were presented Auditory
before the participant who was eventually asked to omit a pho-
neme from the word and pronounce the word without the omit-
ted phoneme (α = 0.86).
Phonemic Blending. The test is composed from 10 items.
Within each item of the test, phonemes were presented before
each participant who was asked to combine the phonemes se-
quentially and to submit the produced word (α = 0.91).
Short-term phonological memory. Series of digits was pre-
sented before the participants who were asked to repeat the
series again after hearing it through an immediate retrieval from
their memory. Each item included two series with a same num-
ber of digits. The series begins with two digits in the first item
and for each additional item one digit to each series. Each par-
ticipant score was calculated as the total number of the correct
series were retrieved (α = 0.93).
Phonological Working memory. Audio series of digits were
presented before the participants who were asked eventually
(after hearing the series) to repeat it again by an immediate
retrieval from their memory but in an opposite order. Each item
included two series. The series starts with two digits in the first
item and in each additional item one digit for each series. Each
participant score was calculated as the total number of the cor-
rect series were retrieved (α = 0.91).
Morphological decision task. This task included 15 items.
Each item included five words, four of which are derived from
the same root and the fifth word is morphologically different
but phonologically and orthographically similar to the other
four words. The participant was asked to identify and circle the
word which is different concerning its morphological relation-
ship (α = 0.85).
Visual Proce ssing
Visual Perception Test (Beery, 1997). The test included 27
items. Each item has a target image and a number of other im-
ages below. The participant was asked to identify the image
that exactly fit in with the target image using visual distinction
processes. The level of the test’s difficulty was at an increasing
Visual search test of the diamond shape (Rudel, Denckla, &
Broman, 1978). The participant was asked to mark the target
image in a sheet that included a lot of distractors. The target
image appeared 14 times randomly in the sheet.
Visual search test of a series of digits (592) (Rudel, Denckla,
& Broman, 1978). The participant was asked to mark the series
of digits (592) in a sheet that included a lot of distractors (series
from other digits). The target series appeared 14 times ran-
domly in the sheet.
Reading pseudo words. The participant was asked to read a
list of 22 pseudo words connected according to common form
in the Arabic orthography and conform to words at the age of
orthographic exposure. The reader has never been exposed to
these words, meaning that the words were regarded as new (α =
Reading meaningful words. The participant was asked to
read a list that included 56 familiar, meaningful and fully-punc-
tuated words. The words conformed to the level of difficulty
and exposure according to the participant’s age (α = 0.85).
Using the model of stepwise regression indicates that there is
a significant correlation between the processes of visual dis-
tinction as measured by the visual perception test and processes
of visual search as measured by the test of searching the series
of digits, but not by the test of visual searching of the visual
shape, to reading meaningful and pseudo words. Calculating
Person correlation indicates that in reading pseudo words there
is a significant and positive correlation (r = 0.34, p < 0.01)
with the processes of visual distinction measured through the
Beery test. In addition, regarding the reading of pseudo words,
a significant positive correlation was found with the processes
of visual searching of the series of digits (r = 0.32, p < 0.01).
Also concerning reading regular meaningful words, a signify-
cant positive correlation was found with the performance in the
task of visual distinction (r = 0.51, p < 0.001). In addition, a
positive correlation was found with the performance in the
test of visual searching for the series of digits (r = 0.34, p <
Significant correlation was found between the processes of
phonological processing as examined in the tests of phonemic
blending and phonemic omission to the processes of reading. A
positive and significant correlation was found between the pro-
cesses of phonemic blending and phonemic omission to reading
pseudo words (r = 0.28, p < 0.05 and r = 0.5, p < 0.001 re-
spectively). Also positive and significant correlation was found
between the processes of phonemic blending and phonemic
omission to reading meaningful and regular words (r = 0.5, p <
0.001 and r < 0.53, p < 0.001).
A positive and significant correlation was also found be-
tween the phonemic blending and working memory (r = 0.27, p
< 0.03), in addition to the positive correlation that was found
between the processes of phonemic omission and the processes
of working memory (r = 0.4, p < 0.01).
From the above analysis, based on the model of regression, it
Open Access 1021
can be indicated that the variables which added to the regres-
sion model explain 53% of the variance in the process of read-
ing meaningful words beyond the two populations of the study
(see Table 1). The first variable is the ability of phonemic dele-
tion (R2 = 0.29). The second variable is the performance in the
test of visual distinction of Beery (R2 = 0.12). The third vari-
able is the search for symbols (diamond test) (R2 = 0.08) and
the fourth is phonemic blending (R2 = 0.04).
In reading pseudo words 31.6% of the explained variance
was explained by the variables of phonemic omission (R2 =
0.244) as the second variable was the visual search for series of
digits (R2 = 0.072) (see Tables 1 and 2).
According to the analysis conducted separately on the two
groups of readers regarding reading meaningful words, 34.2%
of variance within the poor readers was explained significantly
by phonemic blending and visual search of digits (R2 = 0.229,
and R2 = 0.113 respectively). Besides, 49.5% of variance was
found among the group of participants with typical reading
abilities was significantly explained by the following variables;
phonemic omission, naming of objects, naming of digits and
working memory (R2 = 0.161, R = 0.116, R2 = 0.141, and R2 =
0.077 respectively) (see Tables 3 and 4).
Regarding reading pseudo words, among the poor readers
group 29.6% of variance was significantly explained by the
phonemic omission and the visual search for digits (R2 = 0.194,
and R2 = 0.102 respectively)
Among the groups of readers with typical reading abilities,
32.6% of variance in reading pseudo words was significantly
explained by working memory and object naming (R2 = 0.185
and R2 = 0.114 (see Tables 5 and 6).
The analysis of variance indicated that there was a significant
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading words
beyond to the both groups of participants.
F R2 Change R2
25** 0.29 0.29 Phonological Deletion
0.12 0.37 Visual perception (distinction-Beery)
0.08 0.45 Visual search-Diamond
0.04 0.49 Visual search-592
**p < 0.001.
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading pseudo
words beyond to the both groups of participants.
F R2 Change R2
20.98** 0.244 0.24 Phonological Deletion
14.75** 0.072 0.31 Visual search-592
**p < 0.001.
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading words
within poor readers group.
F R2 Change R2
8.8* 0.229 0.229 Phonological Blending
7.55* 0.113 0.342 Visual search-(592)
*p < 0.05.
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading words
among typical readers group.
F R2 ChangeR2
0.161 0.161 Phonological deletion
0.116 0.277 Speed naming of objects (R.A.N)
0.141 0.418 Visual search-592
0.077 0.495 Phonological working memory
*p < 0.05, Abbreviation: R.A.N (Rapid Automatized Naming).
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading pseudo
words among poor readers group.
F R2 ChangeR2
7.2* 0.194 0.194 Phonological deletion
6.1* 0.102 0.296 Visual search-(592)
*p < 0.05.
Stepwise Regression Analysis results of predictors for reading psuedo
words among typical readers group.
F R2 Change R2
7.49* 0.185 0.418 Phonological working memory
7.74* 0.141 0.495 Speed naming of objects (R.A.N)
*p < 0.05, Abbreviation: R.A.N (Rapid Automatized Naming).
difference between the group of typical readers and the group
of poor readers in reading pseudo words [F(1, 65) = 32.62, p
<0.001] (see Table 7). In addition such significant difference
was also found between the two groups of participants in read-
ing meaningful words [F(1, 65) = 64.38, p < 0.001]. Also a
significant difference was found between the two groups in the
performance in the tests of phonological processes that include
phonemic blending and phonemic omission [F(1 , 65) = 5.71, p
< 0.05, and F(1, 65) = 10.43, p < 0.05]. Also the difference
was significant between the two groups in the performance of
the working memory test [F(1, 65) = 7.047, p= 0.01].
The analysis of variance for the performance in the tests of
visual processing indicated a significant difference between the
two groups of participants in the test of visual search for series
of digits and the visual distinction as was tested by the visual
perception test [ F(1, 65) = 5.4, p < 0.05 and F(1 ,65)= 23.45, p
The study’s findings clearly indicate that visual processing
capacities and variables relevant to processes of phonemic pro-
cessing predict reading in Arabic. Visual processing capacities
that have been basically examined through tasks of visual dis-
tinction and visual scanning and search have significant corre-
lation with the ability of reading pseudo words and meaningful
words as well. Yet, it can be indicated that the correlation be-
tween the processes of visual distinction and reading meaning-
ful words is higher than the correlation with reading pseudo
words, but still, the correlations are significant. It can be in-
ferred that reading pseudo words highly rests on the processes
of phonological processing, generally on the processes of pho-
nological working memory that is required in the process of
Averages and standard deviation for the performances in the different
tasks for each group of readers and the F value for the ANOVA be-
tween the groups.
Typical ReadersPoor Readers
F valueSD M SD M Test
n.s 7.3137.33 7.24 39.93R.A.N objects
n.s 6.2326.88 4.34 27.42R.A.N letters
n.s 4.6321.41 3.1 23.31R.A.N Digits
0.9819.45 2.56 18.34Phonological blending
1.8417.85 2.14 16.28Phonological deletion
n.s 2.638.31 1.93 7.78Short-term phonological memory
1.294.97 1.31 4.125Phonological working memory
1.4219.97 2.65 17.03Reading pseudowords
1.4153.14 5.65 45.21Reading words
n.s 2.7 10.57 1.82 9.87Visual search (592)
1.7312.25 2.23 11.12Visual search-Diamond
2.2 23.65 2.3 20.97Visual distinction (Beery)
n.s 2.0813.8 2.04 13.31Morphological awareness
*p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001, n.s = non significant.
decoding during the reading of pseudo words in particular.
Though, a significant correlation was found between the proc
esses of distinction and visual processing to the process of
reading pseudo words. This finding clearly indicates that read-
ing unfamiliar words in Arabic orthography is associated with
visual processing and processes of phonological processing.
In reading regular words, a high and significant correlation
was received between the processes of visual distinction and
the processes of reading, as it was also found that the variable
of visual distinction significantly explains part of the variation
in reading regular meaningful words. The finding indicates that
there is a significant reliance on processes of visual processing
of the orthographic pattern of words during reading. Accord-
ingly, among participants in the two groups, it was found that
the processes of visual processing play an important role in
identifying familiar words. This finding shows that the process
of reading words visually integrates processes linked to the
processing of orthographic structure and the processes of pho-
Various theories suggest that during the reading, there is
synchronization between visual and phonological process, as an
efficient synchronization which is the result of typical devel-
opment of the processes of processing increases the probabili-
ties that the process of reading and word identification will
occur appropriately (Breznitz, 2006). The study's result shows
that readers in Arabic orthography rely on processes of visual
processing when reading orthographically regular and familiar
words as well as new and unfamiliar words. The results also
emphasize the significant difference between the group of par-
ticipants with difficulties and the group of those who succeed in
the performances related to tasks that examine visual process-
ing. Similarly, significant difference was found between the
two groups in task that examine phonological processing and
phonological working memory that relates to processes of
reading. this finding advocates the claim that interpersonal
differences in reading abilities can be explained not only
through differences in the processes of visual processing (Ever-
att, 1999; Facoetti & Turatto, 2000; Vidyasagar & Pammer,
1999), but also, through differences in the processes of phono-
logical processing, as many researchers have suggested (Snow-
More specifically, it can be suggested that in the case that the
particular orthographic structure of the written word in the Ara-
bic language places the reader under cognitive burden while
performing the reading, a situation that necessitates him/her to
try to invest visual resources for the sake of the task in addition
to the processes of phonological processing that simultaneously
occur (Ibrahim, Eviatar, & Aharon-Peretz, 2002; Taha &
Khateb, Submitted). In the processes of synchronization terms,
it can be indicated that a high level of synchronization between
processes of visual and phonological processing is required by
readers in the Arabic orthography for the purpose of an accurate
Regarding visual processing during the reading of words, it
is acceptable to point at two basic eye movements that occur
during the reading for the purpose of performing the visual
scanning for the form of the written word. The processes of
visual scanning are the first stage in the reception of the ortho-
graphic form visually before the grapheme-phonemic transduc-
tion happens. Performing the process in a controlled and se-
quential way may increase the possibility that the reader will
succeed to read appropriately. The study provides evidence for
the importance of the processes of visual scanning and proc-
essing during the reading. Yet, it is still interesting to examine
whether there is sequential processing at the level of letters,
while reading pseudo words, whereas the processing will be at
the global level when reading familiar words. The study’s re-
sults underscore that there is a positive correlation between the
sequential visual scanning and the global distinction to reading
pseudo words and familiar words. Yet it can be suggested that a
specific answer to such question is to be received in a study that
investigates the eye movements during reading pseudo and
Besides, we cannot ignore the fact that the processes of pho-
nological processing play a primary and essential role in read-
ing and decoding familiar and unfamiliar words as well
(Goswami & Bryant, 1990; Share, 1995; Snowling, Goulandris,
& Defty, 1996; Stanovich, 1998; Wagner & Torgesen, 1987). A
specific look into the relation between the performances in the
various tasks indicates that there is a significant correlation
between the performance of tasks that examine phonological
processing, phonemic omission and phonemic blending to the
processes of phonological working memory. It can be sug-
gested that the fact of the existence of this high correlation in
the performance between tasks and the nature of these tasks
indicates that the processes of phonological working memory
are the primary factor on which the process of phonological
processing relies and that tasks that examine processes of pho-
nological processing, such as phonemic omission and phonemic
blending, are actually tasks that examine phonological process-
ing which basically relies on phonological working memory
(Bradely & Bryant, 1987). This claim concerning the contribu-
tion of processes of phonological processing to the processes of
reading, in particular at the Arabic orthography, is advocated by
various studies (Abu-Rabia, 1997a, 1997b, 2003, 2007). Simi-
larly, other researchers suggest that the development of phono-
logical awareness which constitutes a basis for the processes of
phonological processing among native Arab readers is evi-
dently influenced by diglossia, a situation that may be mani-
fested during reading and writing acquisition particularly
Open Access 1023
among children with difficulties (Saiegh-Haddad, 2003, 2004;
Taha, 2013). The study’s results reveal that there is a significant
difference in the ability of phonological processing between
poor and typical readers. It can be suggested that the groups of
readers with reading difficulties experience difficulty in the
processes of phonological processing as a result of individual
developmental factors and also due to the impact of diglossia
on the development of the phonological awareness among this
group. Consequently, the phonological structure of the literary
Arabic language which is the language studied in reading and
the distance between the literary and spoken language consti-
tutes more burden on the typical development of the processes
of phonological processing, specifically among people with
poor developmental potential to this skill. The main cones-
quences of such negative contribution of diglossia may be ob-
viously manifested in difficulties in reading and decoding ac-
Concerning the processes of visual processing in the same
context, it can be suggested that variance in the processes of
visual processing points at primary cognitive developmental
difficulties that impede the success in reading, especially in
orthographies that have complex structure. Moreover, the or-
thographic structure of written words, specially, unfamiliar
words that are not stored as consolidated orthographic patterns
in the orthographic lexicon constitutes a burden during the pro-
cesses of decoding, as processes of visual scanning and proc-
essing of the word’s pattern are required. This situation of se-
quential visual processing or visual distinction that can be
called the processes of visual processing may become more
complex and packed during reading, decoding and orthographic
processing in Arabic language due to the complexity of its or-
thographic features. Thus people with developmental difficult-
ties in visual processing capacities may experience difficulties
at a more significant level than those enjoying a normal func-
tioning in these processes of processing. Thus based on the
abovementioned analysis, the phonological status of the literary
Arabic language and its orthographic status emphasize the de-
velopmental cognitive abilities that set the basis for the acquisi-
tion of reading skills I.e. the processes of phonological and
Besides, the current study examines the process of the speed
of verbal retrieval according to grapheme, visual and numerical
stimuli, the so-called “Rapid automatized naming”. However,
there was no significant and sequential correlation between
those processes and the processes of reading and decoding. It
can bee seen that the primary components during reading in
Arabic orthography are the processes of visual and phonologi-
cal processing, as these processes are at the processing level
and not only at the identification level. In other words, the ver-
bal naming according to the visual stimulus basically rests on
identification and retrieval, while the process of reading rests
on variety of complex processing, specially reading in a com-
plex orthography such as Arabic. Thus it is hard to confirm the
claim that the processes of verbal naming according to the vis-
ual label constitute pure analogy for the processes of reading
(Denckla & Cutting, 1992; Wolf & Bowers, 1999; Wolf, Bow-
ers, & Biddle, 2000). Yet it can be suggested that the speed of
processing, especially the synchronization between the proc-
esses of visual and phonological processing is responsible for
reading accuracy (Breznitz, 2006). The speed of processing
may bridge difficulties in the processes of working memory
that are produced due to the cognitive burden during the proc-
essing. The faster the processing is, the coordination between
the two processing will be and the probability of reading accu-
racy increases accordingly. Though this argument need to be
further investigated through specific study.
The study’s results reveal that the variable of morphological
awareness does not have significant correlation with the per-
formance in the reading tasks. Yet examination the task through
which the morphological awareness is studied reveals that the
task that basically examines morph-orthographic awareness and
that the performance among the two populations was similar.
The finding indicates that the nature of the task that examines
morphological awareness through the reliance on processes of
deduction of semantic links between words is not that task that
purely examines morphological awareness, but rather, a task
that examines awareness to semantic and morphological links
between words, as participants was able to rely on the semantic
links between words for the purpose of deduction of words that
are not morphologically related to the rest of the words. Also,
given that the reader is not aware to this linguistic fact, he/she
can conclude that the word that does not semantically relate to
the rests of the words is the odd word also if he/she does not
enjoy a good morphological awareness. It can be inferred that
the lack of the task’s specificity regarding the mission fails to
accurately distinguish those with good morphological aware-
ness and those whose morphological awareness is inadequate
and even loses the sensitivity of distinction people with normal
abilities and those with difficulties due to the reliance on se-
mantic clues. Thus, it can be suggested that examining the
morphological awareness should occur at various levels for the
purpose of ensuring the examination of the skills in a complete
In sum, the study’s results raise a very important point sug-
gesting that the process of reading in Arabic orthography ne-
cessitates normal functions of visual processing beside to the
phonological processing abilities. This may make the process of
orthographic visual processing more efficient either during a
sequential decoding of new words or during the processes of
identification of familiar words.
Abu-Rabia, S. (1997a). Reading in Arabic orthography: The effect of
vowels and context on reading accuracy of poor and skilled native
Arabic readers in reading paragraphs, sentences, and isolated words.
Journal of Psycholingui st i c Research, 26, 465-482.
Abu-Rabia, S. (1997b). Reading in Arabic orthography: The effect of
vowels and context on reading accuracy of poor and skilled native
Arabic readers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 9,
Abu-Rabia, S. (2001). The role of vowels in reading Semitic scripts:
Data from Arabic and Hebrew. Reading and Writing: An Interdisci-
plinary Journal, 14, 39-59.
Abu-Rabia, S. (2007). The role of morphology and short vowelization
in reading Arabic of normal and dyslexic readers in grades 3, 6, 9,
and 12. Journal of Psycholingu is ti c Research, 36, 89-106.
Abu-Rabia, S., & Taha, H. (2004). Reading and spelling error analysis
of native Arabic dyslexic readers. Reading and Writing: An Interdis-
ciplinary Journal, 17, 651-689.
Abu-Rabia, S., & Taha, H. (2005). Reading in Arabic orthography:
Characteristics, research findings, and assessment. In R. M. Joshi, &
P. G. Aaron (Eds.), Handbook of orthography and literacy (pp. 321-
338). New York: Routledge.
Abu-Rabia, S., & Taha, H. (2006). Phonological errors predominate in
Arabic spelling across grades 1-9. Journal of Psycholinguistic Re-
search, 35, 167-188.
Abu-Rabia, S., Share, D., & Mansour, M. (2003). Word recognition and
basic cognitive processes among reading-disabled and normal read-
ers in Arabic. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 16,
Adams, M. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about
print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ayari, S. (1996). Diglossia and illiteracy in the Arab world. Language,
Culture and Curriculum, 9, 243-253.
Beery, E. K. (1997). The Beery-Buktenica developmental test of visual
motor integration with supplemental developmental tests of visual
perception and motor coordination. New Jersey: Modern Curriculum
Ben-Dror, I., Bentin, S., & Frost, R. (1995). Semantic, phonologic, and
morphologic skills in reading disabled and normal children. Reading
Research Quarterly, 30(4), 876-893.
Bowers, P. G., & Newby-Clark, E. (2002). The role of naming speed
within a model of reading acquisition. Reading and Writing, 15,
Bradly, L., & Bryant, P. E. (1978). Difficulties in auditory organization
as a possible cause of reading backwardness. Nature, 271, 746-747.
Breznitz, Z. (2006). Fluency in reading: Synchronization of processes.
London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Carlisle, J. F. (1995). Morphological awareness and early reading achi-
evement. In L. B. Feldman (Ed.) Morphological aspects of language
processing (pp 189-209). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Clark, E. V., & Hecht, B. F. (1982). Learning to coin agent and instru-
ment nouns. Cognition, 12, 1-24.
Coltheart, M. (2005). Modelling reading: The dual-route approach. In:
M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The Science of Reading. Oxford:
Blackwells Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470757642
Denckla, M. B., & Cutting, L. E. (1999). History and significance of
rapid automatized naming. Annals of Dyslexia, 49, 29-42.
Denkla, M. B., & Rudel, R. G. (1974). Rapid automatized naming of
pictured objects, colors, letters and numbers by normal children.
Cortex, 10, 186-202.
Ehri, L. C. (2005). Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues.
Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 167-188.
Elbro, C., & Arnbak, E. (1996). The role of Morpheme recognition and
morphological awareness in dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 46,
Everatt, J. (1999). Reading and dyslexia: Visual and attentional proc-
esses. New York: Routledge.
Everatt, J., McCorquodale, B., Smith, J., culverwell, F., wilks, A., Ev-
ans, D., Kay, M., & Baker, D. (1999). Association between reading
ability and visual processes. In: Everatt, J (Ed.), Reading and dys-
lexia: Visual and attentional processes (pp 1-39). New York: Rout-
Facoetti, A., Paganoni, P., Turatto, M., Marzola, V., & Mascetti, G. G.
(2000). Visual-spatial attention in developmental dyslexia. Cortex,
36, 109-123. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70840-2
Ferguson, C. A. (1959). Diglossia. Word, 14, 47-56.
Friedmann, N., & Gvion, A. (2001). Letter position dyslexia. Cognitive
Neuropsychology, 18, 673-696.
Frith, U. (1985). Beneath the surface of developmental dyslexia. In:
Patterson, K. E., Marashall, J. C., & Coltheart, M. (Eds.), Surface
dyslexia. (pp 301-330). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Glickstein, M. (2000). How are visual areas of the brain connected to
motor areas for the sensory guidance of movement? Trends in Neu-
rosciences, 23, 613-617.
Goodale M, A., & Milner A, D. (2004). Sight unseen: An exploration of
conscious and unconscious vision. New York: Oxford University
Goswami, U., & Bryant, P. (1990). Phonological skills and learning to
read. Hove: Erlbaum.
Heiervang, E., & Hugdahl, K. (2003). Impaired visual attention in
children with dyslexia. Journal of learning disabilities, 36, 68-73.
Ibrahim, R., Eviatar, Z., & Aharon Peretz, J. (2002). The characteristics
of the Arabic orthography slow it’s cognitive processing. Neuropsy-
cholgy, 16, 322-326. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0894-422.214.171.1242
Jaœkowski, P., & Rusiak, P. (2005). Posterior parietal cortex and de-
velopmental dyslexia. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis (Wars),
Khateb, A., Khateb, M., Taha, H., & Ibrahim, R. (Submitted). The
effect of the internal connectedness of written Arabic words on the
process of the visual recognition: A developmental study.
Kinsey, K., Rose, M., Hansen, P., Richardson, A., & Stein, J. (2004).
Magnocellular mediated visual-spatial attention and reading ability.
Neuroreport, 15, 2215-2218.
Levine, I., Ravid, D., & Rapaport, S. (2001). Morphology and spelling
among Hebrew-speaking children: From kindergarten to first grade.
Journal of Child Language, 28, 741-772.
Lundberg, I., Olofsson, A., & Wall, S. (1980). Reading and spelling
skills in the first school years predicted from phonemic awareness skills
in kindergarten. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 21, 159-173.
Milner, A. D., & Goodale, M. A. (1995). The visual brain in action.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nunes, T., Bryant, P., & Bindman, M. (2006). The effects of learning to
spell on children’s awareness of morphology. Reading and writing,
19, 767-787. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11145-006-9025-y
Ravid, D. (2001). Learning to spell in Hebrew: Phonological and mor-
phological factors. Reading and Writing, 14, 459-485.
Rubin, H. (1991). Morphological knowledge and writing ability. In R.
M. Joshi (Ed.), Written Language Disorders (pp. 43-69). Boston:
Rudel, R. G., Denckla, M. B., & Broman, M. (1978). Rapid silent re-
sponse to repeated target symbols by dyslexic and nondyslexic chil-
dren. Brain and Language, 6, 52-62.
Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2003). Linguistic distance and initial reading ac-
quisition: The case of Arabic diglossia. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24,
Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2004). The impact of phonemic and lexical dis-
tance on the phonological analysis of word and pseudowords in a di-
glossic context. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 495-512.
Saiegh-Haddad, E., & Geva, E. (2008). Morphological awareness, pho-
nological awareness, and reading in English-Arabic bilingual chil-
dren. Reading and Writ in g, 21, 481-504.
Senechal, M. (2000). Morphological effects in children’s spelling of
French words. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54, 76-
Share, D. L. (1995). Phonological recoding and self-teaching: Sine qua
non of reading acquisition. Cognition, 55, 151-218.
Snowling, M. (2001). From language to reading and dyslexia. Dyslexia,
7, 37-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dys.185
Snowling, M. J., Goulandris, N., & Defty, N. (1996). A longitudinal
study of reading development in dyslexic children. Journal of Edu-
cational Psychology, 88, 653-669.
Open Access 1025
Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences
of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Re-
search Quarterly, 21, 360-406.
Stanovich, K. E. (1988). Explaining the differences between the dys-
lexic and garden-variety poor reader: The phonological-core variable-
difference model. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 590-604.
Taha, H. Y. (2013). Reading and spelling in Arabic: Linguistic and
orthographic complexity. Theory and Practice in Language Studies,
3, 721-727. http://dx.doi.org/10.4304/tpls.3.5.721-727
Taha, H., Ibrahim, R., & Khateb, A. (2013). How does Arabic ortho-
graphic connectivity modulate brain activity during visual word rec-
ognition: An ERP study. Brain Topography, 26, 292-302.
Taha, H., & Saiegh-Haddad, E. (Submitted). Morphology and spelling
in Arabic: Development and interface.
Tong, X. L., Deacon, S. H., Kirby, J. R., Cain, K., & Parrila, R. (2011).
Morphological awareness: A key to understanding poor reading com-
prehension in English. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 523-
Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell: A study of first-grade children.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Treiman, R., & Bourassa, D. C. (2000). The development of spelling
skills. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 1-18.
Vidyasagar, T. R., & Pammer, K. (1999). Impaired visual search in dy-
slexia relates to the role of the magnocellular pathway in attention.
Neuroreport, 10, 1283-1287.
Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological
processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psy-
chological Bulletin, 1 0 1 , 192-212.
Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. G. (1999). The double-deficit hypothesis for
the developmental dyslexias. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91,
Wolf, M., Bowers, P. G. & Biddle, K. (2000). Naming-speed processes,
timing, and reading: A conceptual review. Journal of Learning Dis-
abilities, 33, 387-407.
Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading acquisition, develop-
mental dyslexia, and skilled reading across languages: A psycholin-
guistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131 , 3-29.
Ziegler, J. C., Bertrand, D., Tóth, D., Csépe, V., Reis, A., Faísca, L.,
Saine, N., Lyytinen, H., Vaessen, A., & Blomert, L. (2010). Ortho-
graphic depth and its impact on universal predictors of reading: A
cross-language investigation. Psychological Scie n c e , 21, 551-559.