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Syllabic parsing in children: a developmental study using visual word-spotting in Spanish*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2016

Departamento de Psicología Cognitiva. Universidad de La Laguna (Tenerife, Spain)
Colegio Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Tenerife, Spain)
Departamento de Psicología Evolutiva y de la Educación. Universidad de Málaga (Spain)
School of Psychology. University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia)
Address for correspondence: Carlos J. Álvarez Glez., Departamento de Psicología Cognitiva, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad de La Laguna, 38201 – Tenerife (Spain). tel: 00 34 22 317507; e-mail:


Some inconsistency is observed in the results from studies of reading development regarding the role of the syllable in visual word recognition, perhaps due to a disparity between the tasks used. We adopted a word-spotting paradigm, with Spanish children of second grade (mean age: 7 years) and sixth grade (mean age: 11 years). The children were asked to detect one-syllable words that could be found at the beginning of pseudo-words, with the boundary between the word and the remaining letters being manipulated. The end of the embedded word could either match the syllabic boundary (e.g. the word FIN in the pseudo-word FINLO, where the syllable boundary is between N and L) or not (e.g. FINUS, where the syllable boundary is located between I and N). The results showed that children of both grades were faster in the syllabic than the non-syllabic condition, and that the magnitude of this effect was the same regardless of reading ability. The results suggest an early universality in the use of syllables in Spanish, regardless of reading level.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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This research was supported by Grants PSI2010/15184 and PSI2013-47959-P to the first author from the Spanish government. We also want to express our gratitude to the direction, teachers, and staff of the Finca España School (La Laguna, Tenerife) for allowing us to carry out this research. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments.



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