Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Reading in English: A Comparison of Native Arabic and Native English Speakers

Martin, Katherine I (2011) Reading in English: A Comparison of Native Arabic and Native English Speakers. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (615kB) | Preview


Native Arabic speakers often demonstrate exceptional difficulties reading in English (Thompson-Panos & Thomas-Ružić, 1983). Research suggests that they have difficulties processing English vowels, leading to further difficulties with word recognition and phonological processing. Research also suggests that in their L1, native Arabic speakers rely on consonants alone for word recognition. This is because of a unique feature of Arabic orthography - most vowels are not normally included in text. If Arabic speakers use a reading strategy that focuses on consonants and uses context to fill in vowels, this would have implications for learning to read another language (English) without predictable vowels. This is especially relevant because L2 learners often transfer L1 reading strategies to L2 (e.g., Koda, 2007).This study used eye-tracking to investigate the difficulties that native Arabic speakers have reading in English, with native English speakers as a comparison. The influences of two variables were examined: word frequency and orthographic vowel ambiguity (whether an orthographic vowel sequence has more than one common pronunciation). Participants read sentences containing high- and low-frequency words that had ambiguous or unambiguous vowels while their eye movements were recorded.Results show that native English speakers are not influenced by frequency, but are consistently influenced by vowel ambiguity, with more processing difficulty on words with ambiguous vowels than unambiguous vowels. This shows that native English speakers access phonology deeply enough during reading to be affected by an ambiguous vowel. In contrast, the native Arabic speakers showed a strong frequency effect (with more difficulty on low than high frequency words) but were rarely affected by vowel ambiguity. These results suggest that native Arabic speakers do not access English phonology deeply during reading. This is likely the result of transferring an L1 reading strategy that does not depend on vowel information.If native Arabic speakers do not access English vowel information, as these results suggest, this may explain their reading difficulties. Accurate phonological processing is essential for the development of fluent English reading (Adams, 1990). Using written vowels also frees cognitive resources for higher-level processes such as comprehension. Implications for models of reading and pedagogy are briefly discussed.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Martin, Katherine Ikim20@pitt.eduKIM20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberReichle, Erikreichle@pitt.eduREICHLE
Committee MemberTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Date: 14 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 18 July 2011
Approval Date: 14 September 2011
Submission Date: 5 August 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: English as a Second Language; ESL; eye-tracking; L1 transfer; L2 pedagogy; L2 reading; phonological access; reading processes; reading strategies; reading theory; word level reading
Other ID:, etd-08052011-100054
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:57
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item