Neurocognitive Aspects of Processing Arabic and Hebrew, pp.103-122
Authors: Raphiq Ibrahim, Learning Disabilities Department, University of Haifa and Cognitive Neurology Department, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel
Abstract: The aim of this chapter is to explore the neurocognitive basis of the difficulties that the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual encounters in processing the Arabic language as a result of the diglossic situation in Arabic (spoken Arabic and Modern Standard, or Literary Arabic). Furthermore, the chapter discusses the unique features of the Arabic language that might contribute to the inhibition and slowness of reading acquisition and might even hinder the acquisition of basic academic skills. In the first section, two case studies of Arabic-Hebrew aphasic patients (M.H. and M.M.) are presented, with different disturbances in the two languages, Arabic (L1) and Hebrew (L2). They exhibited a complementary pattern of severe impairment of either L1 (Arabic) or L2 (Hebrew) constituting a double dissociation. These results suggested that the principles governing the organization of lexical representations in the brain are not similar for the two languages. The second section focuses on the functional architecture of reading in Hebrew and in Arabic. The effects of characteristics of Arabic and Hebrew as Semitic languages on hemispheric functioning were systematically examined. These patterns are compared with the modal findings in the literature, which are usually based on English. Also, the effects of the absence of almost all vowel information, the orthographies of the two languages, and their non-concatenative morphological structure were investigated. It was shown that when languages make different types of demands upon the cognitive system, interhemispheric interaction is dynamic and is suited to these demands. In that regard, both Arabic and Hebrew require a higher level of interhemispheric interaction than does English.