Send to

Choose Destination
J Psycholinguist Res. 2005 Jan;34(1):51-70.

Is literary Arabic a second language for native Arab speakers?: Evidence from semantic priming study.

Author information

Cognitive Neurology Unit, Department of Neurology, Rambam Medical Center, P.O. Box 9602, Haifa 31096, Israel.


The mother tongue of the absolute majority of native Arabic speakers is Spoken Arabic (SA), which is a local dialect that does not have a written form. For reading and writing, as well as for formal communication Literary Arabic (LA) is used For the literate Arabs, these two languages are extensively inter-twined in every day life. Consequently, it is possible that, despite the difference between them, LA is not processed like a regular second language by the cognitive system of the native Arabic speakers but rather as an enhancement of the spoken lexicon. In the present study we examined this possibility comparing semantic priming effects in auditory lexical decision within SA (L1), with the effects found across languages with LA or in Hebrew (L2). Hebrew is doubtlessly a second language for native Arabic speakers. In this study we have manipulated semantic priming In Experiment 1 the targets were in Spoken Arabic and the primes in any of the three languages. The semantic priming effect was twice as large within L1 as between languages and there was no difference between Hebrew and LA. In Experiment 2, all primes were in SA whereas the targets were in any of the three languages. The priming effects in that experiment were doubled relative to the previous experiment, but the inter-language relationships were the same. For both language pairings, the semantic priming was larger when the primes were presented in SA (and the targets in either Hebrew or LA) than when the primes were presented in one of the second languages and the targets in SA. The conclusion is that, despite the intensive daily use adult native Arabic speakers make of SA and LA, and despite their shared origin, the two languages retain their status as first and second languages in the cognitive system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center