This study was designed to determine whether children's conceptualization of the component sounds in words is influenced by their knowledge of the words' spellings. For example, the spelling of pitch may lead learners to discover the phonetic element [t] in its pronunciation and to conceptualize this as a separate phoneme, whereas the spelling of rich should not. Positive results were obtained in a phonemic segmentation task with real and made-up words taught to fourth graders. Findings are interpreted to show that phonemic segmentation skill may be a consequence of as much as a prerequisite to learning to read words. Results are consistent with a theory of printed word learning in which visual spellings are retained in memory through a sound symbolization process.