Loquens, Vol 2, No 1 (2015)

Accent mark and visual word recognition in Spanish


Sandra Schwab
Universität Zürich / Université de Genève, Switzerland


The present research aims at determining to what extent an orthographic error related to the accent mark affects the visual recognition of Spanish words. For this, we conducted two experiments of visual lexical decision (with no word production), in which Spanish-speaking participants were instructed to ignore the presence or the absence of the accent mark.

Stimuli were composed of words originally without accent mark (OrNA for ‘originally no accent’; Experiment 1) and words originally with an accent mark (OrWA for ‘originally with accent’; Experiments 1 and 2). OrNA words were presented in three conditions: correctly spelled (e.g., dulce ‘sweet’), with an added accent mark on the lexically stressed vowel ( dúlce) and with a misplaced accent mark on the lexically non-stressed vowel ( dulcé). Along the same line, OrWA words were also presented in three conditions: correctly spelled (e.g., lápiz ‘pen’), without the accent mark (lapiz) and with a misplaced accent mark (lapíz).

Taken together, the results showed that the accent mark plays a role in the visual word recognition in Spanish. More specifically, the addition and/or the misplacement of an accent mark significantly slow down the visual recognition of the words, whereas the omission of the accent mark does not. The findings are discussed within the framework of dual-route models.


Spanish; accent mark; visual word recognition; lexical stress; lexical access

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