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The University of Southampton

Research grant on Eye Movements and Reading in Arabic could help UK literacy underachievement and reading difficulties

Published: 18 July 2013

A Senior Psychology Lecturer at the University of Southampton has been awarded a grant to explore the potential of the Arabic language to help literacy underachievement and reading difficulties in the UK.

Dr Denis Drieghe has been awarded more than £150,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to investigate the unique properties of Arabic that allow the construction of novel empirical questions about the processing of sounds from text during reading. This processing of sounds is known as phonological processing.

Literacy underachievement and reading difficulties remain a source of national concern in the UK and difficulties in phonological processing have often been linked with many of the common reading difficulties.

The co-applicant is Professor of Experimental Psychology Simon Liversedge and together with Ehab Hermena, a Phd student they both supervise who is already working on reading in Arabic, they aim to explore whether increasing the transparency of written text by using diacritics – glyphs added to a letter to indicate its pronunciation such as an umlaut or an accent in other languages – benefits adult skilled Arabic readers.

"Studying the processing of Arabic phonology in the presence or absence of diacritics can be very informative in investigating literacy difficulties such as dyslexia , and also be beneficial to remedial teaching, the teaching profession and the academic field of psycholinguistics," said Denis.

"This award will allow us to explore this area of research and to employ a three-year postdoctoral researcher to help us in our studies," he added regarding the research project that is scheduled to start in 2014.

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the First Viscount Leverhulme to provide resources to support scholarships for the purposes of research and education. The Trust provides funding for research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes across all academic disciplines. It aims to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training.

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