This work brings together dynamical and structural information at a molecular level for cellulose acetate being an original contribution to the general description of polysaccharide properties. In particular, it allowed reinterpreting the secondary relaxation mechanisms that are still controversial in the literature; a compilation of data provided by different authors is provided. Detailed dynamical information is provided by dielectric relaxation spectroscopy (DRS) (10(-1)-10(6) Hz) for cellulose acetate (CA) in the sub-T(gg)region below ambient temperature; results were compared with cellulose acetate structured as an asymmetric membrane (CAmb). In samples with low water content, two secondary relaxation processes between 173 and 298 K were identified by DRS, associated with localized mobility. The process located at the lowest temperatures (process I) has a different mobility in CA relative to CAmb. The identical crystalline/amorphous state of both materials allowed rationalizing the distinct behavior in terms of polymeric arrangement and ability for water uptake. The looser structure of the CA relative to CAmb as confirmed by FTIR, TGA, and DSC analysis makes more sites accessible to water molecules, resulting in a higher water retention in CA (2.73% w/w) relative to CAmb (1.60% w/w) and an increased molecular mobility in the former due to a plasticizing effect. In both materials, process I is significantly influenced by hydration, shifting to higher frequencies and lower temperatures upon water uptake. This process seems to be associated with mobility occurring within the monomeric unit, which embraces the two anhydroglucose rings connected by the glycosidic linkage and the polar groups directly attached to it. It should involve a very limited length scale, as suggested by its location, far below the glass transition, and the t8 value with a low entropic effect. The relaxation process that emerges later, process II, is similar for both samples being much less influenced by water but experiencing a slight antiplasticizing effect shifting to lower frequencies and higher temperatures upon hydration. It should involve side group motions, strongly coupled to the mobility of the anhydroglucose rings, which become hindered probably due to establishment of H-bonds with water molecules. The plasticizing/antiplasticizing effect is being discussed only on the basis of the frequency position of the relaxation peak. Processes I and II merge into a broad relaxation (?dry) upon water removal in both CA and CAmb, however evolving slower in the former with drying, due to a more disordered structure of CA that allows water to interact with more internal sites in the polymer. At higher temperatures (T <= 353 K), a process emerges in the high frequency side of the dynamic a-relaxation which is compatible with a beta(JG)-relaxation. The structured specimen CAmb provided an additional way to probe the morphological changes undergone by the material when annealed to temperatures higher than 353 K, originating an increase in the dielectric response. This effect can be associated with a skin densification and partial collapse of the membrane porous network, as observed by SEM.