Phonological encoding and the phonology of Spanish: The role of the syllable

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2 Scopus citations


During speech comprehension, listeners engage in a process known as phonological encoding. Phonological encoding comprises processes such as assigning gradient acoustic information to discrete phonemic categories (categorization), detecting possible word onsets in a continuous signal (segmentation), and locating words in the lexicon (lexical activation, competition, and recognition). Evidence gathered from tasks that tap into phonological encoding provides crucial information for our understanding of speakers’ mental representations (i.e., phonology). In addition to investigating speech production through articulatory and acoustic studies, laboratory phonologists (and psycholinguists) conduct experimental research on phonological encoding. This chapter reviews the experimental literature on one important phonological structure of Spanish, the syllable. The encoding evidence suggests that listeners whose native language is Spanish deploy their knowledge of their language’s syllabification patterns in order to segment the speech chain into processable chunks, and to activate (and deactivate) word entries in the mental lexicon. This suggests that Spanish speakers’ knowledge of the phonology of their language includes the syllable. Most aspects of Spanish speakers’ phonological knowledge, such as assimilation or lenition rules, remain to be investigated from the perspective of phonological encoding, even though laboratory tasks are available and comparable evidence from other languages exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Spanish Phonology
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781351855167
ISBN (Print)9780415785693
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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