Get Your Premium Membership

The Secret of Syllables

by PoetrySoup

The English language is sometimes a confusing subject. One of the mysteries is syllabication of words.

Today we are going to look at syllables and how to do it right. This will help you pronounce words and spell them better and understand one of the hardest parts of English.

The first question we need to answer is what is a syllable?

In a nutshell, syllable definition is:

"A segment of sound that has no pauses, breaks, and interruptions in it that makes a sound with a vowel within it."

The sound is usually produced with one breath or burst of air through the vocal cords.

A syllable is created by combining one or more letters and has a vowel sound whether or not the letter are actual vowels themselves or not.

A syllable can end with either a constant or a vowel. Those that and in a vowel are called open syllables. In contrast, those it and in a consonant sound are called a closed syllable.

So you can see in reality, there's nothing all that difficult about discovering the meaning of what syllables are.

How long should a syllable be?

Along with syllable definition, one of the other problems is when attempting to explain syllable construction is how to figure out how long it should be.

This is one of the deep dark secrets of the English language. Syllabication measures a syllable's length by the pronunciation of the word itself.

If you try to use the number of letters and spelling alone, you will fail miserably in your attempts to find out how this works.

Instead, you should focus on what the word sounds like and how it is pronounced. This means that the number of syllables in a word may vary depending on what part of the country you are in as some people pronounce words in a different manner than American Standard English.

How to avoid confusion and final words

As we said before a syllable has a ball sound in it, but it may not have an actual vowel within it.

For example, take the word Gypsy. You can see plainly that the word has no vowel sounds ie. "AEIOU."

However, you can plainly hear and E sound as well as and I. If you listen closely also, you will hear that there are two sounds that make up the word. The 1st being "Jip" and the 2nd being "see", which lets you know that there are 2 syllables within this word and you would break the word after the P.

A word like "fry" again has no vowel within it, and it is pronounced with a single puff of air.

The more complicated the word and its pronunciation means that there will be more syllabication involved.

The word: "antidisestablishmentarianism", which is a word coined to deal with the principle of anti-withdrawal of support of the state from a recognized religion/church.

There are a whopping 11 separate syllables in this word. It is considered one of the longest if not the longest nontechnical/medical words in the English language.

When you break the word down into its component sounds, you see something that looks like this:


This, by the way, makes it easier for you to spell the word as well as pronounce it.

So, when you learn to define the number of syllables in a word you not only can make English easier but syllabication is also useful to aid you in the pronunciation of words and make spelling them much simpler as well.