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The article concerns features of Israeli Hebrew and Palestinian Arabic, two contemporary Semitic languages spoken in the same geographic region. It reviews the complex situation of linguistic diglossia in these two languages as the sociolinguistic context in which each is acquired as a first language by children growing up in Israel. In psycholinguistic perspective, the article considers the impact of literacy on register distinctions and metalinguistic awareness in child language acquisition in general and in these two languages in particular. Empirical studies of children's developing knowledge of the consonantal root as the basis for new-word formation are reviewed as evidence for the interaction between universally shared, general processes of language acquisition and the typologically specific and language-particular tasks faced by children acquiring a Semitic language like Israeli Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic.