Hemispheric involvement in the comprehension of conventional metaphors in Arabic–Hebrew speakers

Hadeel Ershaid, Nira Mashal, Katy Borodkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives/purpose/research questions: Previous studies in pairs of typologically distant languages showed that hemispheric processing of metaphoric expressions differs in a native versus second language. The current research explored this finding in a pair of typologically close languages, Arabic and Hebrew. Design/methodology/approach: Forty-six Arabic native speakers who were proficient in Hebrew (second language; 30 women, aged 19–28) participated in a divided visual field (DVF) experiment. They were presented with conventional metaphors, literal expressions, and unrelated word pairs and asked to indicate whether the word pairs formed a meaningful expression. Participants were tested in spoken Arabic, literary Arabic, and Hebrew in separate blocks. Data and analysis: Mean reaction times and accuracy were analyzed using repeated-measures three-way analysis of variance, with language, visual field, and expression type as independent variables. Findings/conclusions: In contrast to previously reported findings, a left-hemisphere advantage or a bilateral pattern of processing was observed for conventional metaphors in both varieties of Arabic and in Hebrew, suggesting similar hemispheric processing in native and second language. Originality: Metaphor processing is examined in a pair of typologically close languages. Significance/implications: Our findings (in a pair of typologically close languages) differ from those previously reported in pairs of less similar languages, suggesting a modulatory role of language similarity in hemispheric processing of second-language metaphors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-367
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Bilingualism
  • diglossia
  • figurative language
  • laterality
  • metaphor processing


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