Multisyllabic words have been neglected in determining the relationship between spelling and sound in reading development. In a preliminary exploration of this topic, sensitivity to the phonological and orthographic composition of multisyllabic words and nonwords is examined amongst a group of English-speaking 11-year-olds. The nature of the English language suggests that the syllable structure and stress pattern of words may influence the acquisition of higher-order reading skills. A phonological awareness task confirms that syllable boundaries are ambiguous in certain English words. Furthermore, accuracy at reading multisyllabic words and nonwords appears sensitive to this ambiguity as a small advantage emerges for stimuli with more stable syllable structures. Nonword but not word reading is affected by syllable length, and nonwords are assigned stress patterns which appear to be related to the lexical syllables that were used to construct these items. These findings are related to current connectionist models of word recognition.