Syllables | Teaching and Learning Syllables
What Is A Syllable?
A syllable is that part of a word which is uttered by a single effort or impulse of the voice. For example, the word syllable is composed of three syllables: syl, la, and ble.
FYI, PoetrySoup has a sister website dedicated to syllables. This website is a comprehensive syllables website. Go to SyllableCount.com
syl·la·ble [sil-uh-buh ] A noun, verb, syl·la·bled, syl·la·bling.
Here are other words broken into syllables:
- rab bit
- yes ter day
- to day
- re peat
- pre cau tion
- sig na ture
The easiest way to determine how many syllables are in a particular word is to sound it out (Or use our Syllable Counter); but remember:
- Syllables never have more then one vowel sound in them.
- Most syllables have a single vowel plus zero or more consonants (occasional syllables have a syllabic consonant rather than a vowel). ii.
- Depending upon language-specific rules, syllables have certain numbers of consonants before and after the vowel.
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How Many Syllables are in...
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Basic Syllable Rules
1. To find the number of syllables:
---count the vowels in the word,
---subtract any silent vowels, (like the silent "e" at the end of a word or the second vowel when two vowels are together in a syllable)
---subtract one vowel from every diphthong, (diphthongs only count as one vowel sound.)
---the number of vowels sounds left is the same as the number of syllables.
The number of syllables that you hear when you pronounce a word is the same as the number of vowels sounds heard. For example:
The word "came" has 2 vowels, but the "e" is silent, leaving one vowel sound andone syllable.
The word "outside" has 4 vowels, but the "e" is silent and the "ou" is a diphthong which counts as only one sound, so this word has only two vowels sounds and therefore, two syllables.
More on basic syllabic rules
Poetry, Syllables, Word Stress and the Metrical Foot
Words are made up of rhythmic units called feet and these comprise one or more syllables. Feet represent the rhythmic structure of the word and are the units that allow us to describe stress patterns. In each foot, one of the syllables is more prominent or stronger than the other syllable(s) and it is called the strong syllable. It is the head of the syllable. The other syllables in the foot are the weak syllables. In “party”, the first syllable is strong and the second syllable is weak.
There are two kinds of feet; left-dominant and right-dominant. Languages use either one or the other type.
- Left-dominant feet have a strong first syllable with the following syllables weak.
- Right-dominant feet have a strong final syllable with preceding syllables weak.
English is a left-dominant language. For example, “consultation” has two feet, /kɔn.səl/ and /tæɪ.ʃən/. In each of these feet, the first or left-most syllable is strong and the second is weak, that is, leftdominant. In each word, one of the feet is stronger than the other feet. Its head is more prominent because it is assigned intonational tone or extra length. This strong syllable has primary word stress and the heads of the other feet have secondary stress. In “escalator” /eskəlæɪtə/, there are two left-dominant feet and the first has primary stress. The first syllable of the second foot carries secondary stress. The weak syllables are unstressed. In English there is a tendency for the first syllable of words to be strong and for words not to have adjacent strong syllables. For example, words like “lantern” (s w) and “halogen” (s w w) are far more common than “arise” (w s) or “apex” (s s). So within feet we can identify a distinction between strong and weak syllables, and within a word across feet we can identify primary, secondary stress and unstressed syllables. Metrical theory is principally concerned with the parameters that determine the position of stressed syllables in words. Stress is seen as a strength relationship between different syllables.
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