Are syllables represented in the brain? In the following, I will summarize the

views that psycholinguists and neurolinguists take on this question. Presumably,

it might be more appropriate to ask “How are syllables represented in the

brain?” because few people have disputed the psychological or psycholinguistic

reality of the syllable (but see Panconcelli-Calzia, 1934, pp. 119-120). However,

syllables have been proven to be notoriously difficult to capture in linguistic

terms (for overviews see Bell, A. & Hooper, 1978; Blevins, 1995; Selkirk, 1982),

and it has been suggested that “syllables are just epiphenomenal consequences

of the necessity of making a succession of auditorily robust modulations in one

or more acoustic parameters” (Ohala, 1998, p. 526). Both phoneticians and

phonologists (but not psycholinguists) have tried to define the syllable as a

universal unit in the language system but “although nearly everybody can

identify syllables, almost nobody can define them” (Ladefoged, 1982, p. 220).