Bayan Shehadey

Doctorate Scholarship at the field of Language development and learning disabilities in Arabic

Dyslexic readers are typically defined on the basis of inaccurate and/or slow and effortful word reading (DSM-5, 2013) typically resulting from a deficit in the phonological component of language (Lyon et al., 2003; Vellutino et al., 2004). This phonological deficit delays the development of orthographic knowledge (Quemart & Casalis, 2015) and prevents the development of rapid and automatic word recognition skills (Share, 1995). Although dyslexics suffer from phonological difficulties, many of them make progress in learning to read, although little is known about the alternatives for their inefficient decoding abilities and the mechanisms which allow them to read. According to Stanovich (1980), dyslexics compensate by relying on top-down processes such as semantic knowledge to recognize words (see also Quemart & Casalis, 2015). Morphemes, the smallest units of meaning in words, are considered the heart of the lexical organization and access (e.g., Marslen-Wilson et al., 1994). It has been claimed that disabled readers rely to a greater extent on morphology than do non-disabled readers (Quemart & Casalis, 2015). Thus, morphology may compensate for their poor phonological skills (Deacon et al., 2008; Elbro & Arnbak, 1996; Leikin & Even-Tsur, 2006).

Morphological priming among dyslexic readers has been primarily informed by studies undertaken in Indo-European languages written in the Roman alphabets. However, studies in other language families and in non-alphabetic orthographies with qualitatively different word formation mechanisms are necessary for the formulation of a universal theory of morphological processing in reading (Frost, 2012; Share, 2008). The current proposal steps outside the family of alphabetically written languages and focuses on Arabic – a Semitic language with a non-alphabetic writing system (Daniels, 2018), and the native tongue of approximately 274 million people and the fifth most spoken language globally (Ethnologue, 2022). It aims to investigate morphological knowledge among adolescent dyslexic readers compared to chronological age and reading-level matched controls using masked priming paradigm. It also aims to examine the morphological knowledge difference between subtypes of dyslexics (accuracy-disabled subgroup and rate-disabled subgroup). Morphology may be especially useful for dyslexics in Arabic, due to its rich and productive morphology (Habash, 2010) and the fact that Arabic-speaking readers from a very young age are exposed to morphologically complex words. Therefore, the present proposal aims to probe this domain among dyslexics tapping different aspects of morphological awareness and morphological processing.