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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 25 (2012), Issue 3, Pages 193-203

Letter Position Dyslexia in Arabic: From Form to Position

Naama Friedmann and Manar Haddad-Hanna

Received 16 March 2012; Accepted 16 March 2012

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study reports the reading of 11 Arabic-speaking individuals with letter position dyslexia (LPD), and the effect of letter form on their reading errors. LPD is a peripheral dyslexia caused by a selective deficit to letter position encoding in the orthographic-visual analyzer, which results in migration of letters within words, primarily of middle letters. The Arabic orthography is especially interesting for the study of LPD because Arabic letters have different forms in different positions in the word. As a result, some letter position errors require letter form change. We compared the rate of letter migrations that change letter form with migrations that do not change letter form in 10 Arabic-speaking individuals with developmental LPD, and one bilingual Arabic and Hebrew-speaking individual with acquired LPD. The results indicated that the participants made 40% letter position errors in migratable words when the resulting word included the letters in the same form, whereas migrations that changed letter form almost never occurred. The error rate of the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual reader was smaller in Arabic than in Hebrew. However, when only words in which migrations do not change letter form were counted, the rate was similar in Arabic and Hebrew. Hence, whereas orthographies with multiple letter forms for each letter might seem more difficult in some respects, these orthographies are in fact easier to read in some forms of dyslexia. Thus, the diagnosis of LPD in Arabic should consider the effect of letter forms on migration errors, and use only migratable words that do not require letter-form change. The theoretical implications for the reading model are that letter form (of the position-dependent type found in Arabic) is part of the information encoded in the abstract letter identity, and thus affects further word recognition processes, and that there might be a pre-lexical graphemic buffer in which the checking of orthographic well-formedness takes place.