Although dyslexia can be individuated in many different ways, it has only three discernable sources: a visual deficit that affects the perception of letters, a phonological deficit that affects the perception of speech sounds, and an audio-visual deficit that disturbs the association of letters with speech sounds. However, the very nature of each of these core deficits remains debatable. The phonological deficit in dyslexia, which is generally attributed to a deficit of phonological awareness, might result from a specific mode of speech perception characterized by the use of allophonic (i.e., subphonemic) units. Here we will summarize the available evidence and present new data in support of the “allophonic theory” of dyslexia. Previous studies have shown that the dyslexia deficit in the categorical perception of phonemic features (e.g., the voicing contrast between /t/ and /d/) is due to the enhanced sensitivity to allophonic features (e.g., the difference between two variants of /d/). Another consequence of allophonic perception is that it should also give rise to an enhanced sensitivity to allophonic segments, such as those that take place within a consonant cluster. This latter prediction is validated by the data presented in this paper.
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