Both reading words and text in Arabic is slower than in other languages, even among skilled native Arabic speakers Previously we have shown that the right hemisphere (RH) had difficulty in matching Arabic letters, and suggested that it cannot contribute to word recognition in Arabic. In this study we tested this finding directly.
We used the Divided Visual Field (DVF) lexical decision (LD) paradigm to assess hemispheric function during reading. The experiment had two conditions (unilateral and bilateral). In the unilateral condition, the target stimulus was presented unilaterally to the left or the right visual field. In the bilateral condition two stimuli were presented simultaneously, and participants were cued as to which one was the target. Three groups of participants were tested: Arabic speakers, Hebrew speakers, and English speakers. Each group was tested in their native language.
For Hebrew and English speakers, performance in both visual fields was significantly better in the unilateral than in the bilateral condition. For Arabic speakers, performance in the right visual field (RVF, where stimuli are presented directly to the left hemisphere) did not change in the two conditions. Performance in the LVF (when stimuli are presented directly to the right hemisphere) was at chance level in the bilateral condition, but not in the unilateral condition.
We interpret these data as supporting the hypothesis that in English and Hebrew, both hemispheres are involved in LD, whereas in Arabic, the right hemisphere is not involved in word recognition.