On the nature of sonority in spoken word production: Evidence from neuropsychology

Michele Miozzo, Adam Buchwald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of sonority - that speech sounds can be placed along a universal sonority scale that affects syllable structure - has proved valuable in accounting for a wide spectrum of linguistic phenomena and psycholinguistic findings. Yet, despite the success of this concept in specifying principles governing sound structure, several questions remain about sonority. One issue that needs clarification concerns its locus in the processes involved in spoken language production, and specifically whether sonority affects the computation of abstract word form representations (phonology), the encoding of context-specific features (phonetics), or both of these processes. This issue was examined in the present study investigating two brain-damaged individuals with impairment arising primarily from deficits affecting phonological and phonetic processes, respectively. Clear effects of sonority on production accuracy were observed in both individuals testing word onsets and codas in word production. These findings indicate that the underlying principles governing sound structure that are captured by the notion of sonority play a role at both phonological and phonetic levels of processing. Furthermore, aspects of the errors recorded from our participants revealed features of syllabic structure proposed under current phonological theories (e.g., articulatory phonology).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-301
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Language production
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Sonority
  • Word production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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