What the Eyes Hear: An Eye-Tracking Study on Phonological Awareness in Emirati Arabic

Alexandra Marquis, Meera Al Kaabi, Tommi Leung, Fatima Boush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Phonological awareness is the ability to perceive and manipulate the sounds of spoken words. It is considered a good predictor of reading and spelling abilities. In the current study, we used an eye-tracking procedure to measure fixation differences while adults completed three conditions of phonological awareness in Emirati Arabic (EA): (1) explicit instructions for onset consonant matching (OCM), (2) implicit instructions for segmentation of initial consonant (SIC), and (3) rhyme matching (RM). We hypothesized that fixation indices would vary according to the experimental conditions. We expected explicit instructions to facilitate task performance. Thus, eye movements should reflect more efficient fixation patterns in the explicit OCM condition in comparison to the implicit SIC condition. Moreover, since Arabic is consonant-based, we hypothesized that participants would perform better in the consonant conditions (i.e., OCM and SIC) than in the rhyme condition (i.e., RM). Finally, we expected that providing feedback during practice trials would facilitate participants’ performance overall. Response accuracy, expressed as a percentage of correct responses, was recorded alongside eye movement data. Results show that performance was significantly compromised in the RM condition, where targets received more fixations of longer average duration, and significantly longer gaze durations in comparison to the OCM and SIC conditions. Response accuracy was also significantly lower in the RM condition. Our results indicate that eye-tracking can be used as a tool to test phonological awareness skills and shows differences in performance between tasks containing a vowel or consonant manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number452
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 17 2020


  • Arabic language
  • Emirati Arabic (EA)
  • adults
  • eye-tracking
  • neurolinguistics
  • phonological awareness
  • word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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