The differential time course for consonant and vowel processing in Arabic: Implications for language learning and rehabilitation

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Educators and therapists in the Arab world have not been able to benefit from the recent integration of basic behavioral science with neuroscience. This is due to the paucity of basic research on Arabic. The present study is a step toward establishing the necessary structure for the emergence of neuro-rehabilitory and educational practices. It focuses on the recent claim that consonants and vowels have distinct representations, carry different kinds of information, and engage different processing mechanisms. This proposal has received support from various research fields, however it suprisingly stops short of making any claims about the time course of consonant and vowel processing in speech. This study specifically asks if consonants and vowels are processed differentially over time, and whether these time courses vary depending on the kind of information they are associated with. It does so in the context of a Semitic language, Arabic, where consonants typically convey semantic meaning in the form of tri-consonantal roots, and vowels carry phonological and morpho-syntactic information in the form of word patterns. Two cross-modal priming experiments evaluated priming by fragments of consonants that belong to the root, and fragments of vowels belonging to the word pattern. Consonant fragments were effective primes while vowel fragments were not. This demonstrates the existence of a differential processing time course for consonants and vowels in the auditory domain, reflecting in part the different linguistic functions they are associated with, and argues for the importance of assigning distinct representational and processing properties to these elements. At broader theoretical and practical levels, the present results provide a significant building block for the emergence of neuro-rehabilitory and neuro-educational traditions for Arabic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number557
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • CV-hypothesis
  • Consonantal root
  • Learning and rehabilitation
  • Time course of spoken word processing
  • Vocalic word pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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