Syllables Can Be Stressful

by Ela Britchkow, Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech Improvement Now accent reduction software programs guide people to choose the right syllable on which to place stress while speaking. The following explains what syllables are.

Before we proceed, we need to know the following 2 definitions:

Q: What is a vowel?

A: a, e, i, o, u and sometime y

Q: What is a consonant?

A: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z

What is a Syllable?

  • A syllable is a single unit of written or spoken sound with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) that is used to make up words.
  • The letter ‘y’ can be counted as a vowel, only if it creates the sound of a vowel (a, e, i, o, u).
    • For example: fry, try, cry, & dry
  • Some words have two (or more) vowels next to each other, but only make one sound (au, oy, oo). These are called diphthongs. Other words have vowels that are silent.
  • The number of times that you hear the sound of a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) is equal to the number of syllables the word has.
  • All words have at least one syllable.

How to Divide Words into Syllables

Knowing how to divide words into syllables can greatly help with your spelling and reading skills as well as your ability to pronounce words correctly.

Look at where the vowels fall in your word. Every syllable will have a vowel, but may not always have a consonant.

Identify any prefix in a word. Prefixes are sets of letters added to the beginning of a word to give it a specific meaning. The most common prefixes are “un” and “re”. Other prefixes include: a (atypical) ante, auto, circum, co, de, dis, ex, extra, hetero, homo, hyper, inter, intro, macro, micro, non, post, pre, sub, super, trans, tri, uni.

Many words don’t have prefixes. If your word doesn’t have a prefix, don’t worry about this step.

Identify any suffix of a word. Suffixes are like prefixes, but they are added to the end of the word to make them mean something different. Here are some examples of suffixes: ic, ical, ify, omy, emetry, ive, ity, tion, ious, ily, eous, able, ible, ophy, grapy, ogist, cian, istry.

Draw a line before the suffix of a word. If your word has both a prefix and suffix, you should have two lines drawn in your word so far.

    • For example: “re | wind | ing.”
    • If your suffix has more than one vowel, follow the same rule as with prefixes.
    • If vowels have consonants between them, draw a line after the first consonant that follows your first vowel viagra libre. For example: flex | ib | le.
    • Some words don’t have prefixes or suffixes. If your word does not have a suffix, do not draw a line.

Divide any compound words. If there are two separate words have been put together, draw a line between them.

    • For example: “lunch |time”

Draw lines in the remaining chunks according to vowel placement. If you have a section of letters with multiple vowels that are separated by consonants, divide it so that there is at least one vowel in each segment. For example “ad | min | is | tra |tion.”

Syllable Division Rules

  1. Separate prefixes, suffixes, and root words
    • pre/view, work/ing, re/do, end/less, out/side
  1. Are two consonants next to each other?  Divide in between them
    • consonant = a letter that is not a vowel
    • buf/fet, des/sert, ob/ject, ber/ry, fer/ry
  1. Never split 2 consonants that (when pronounced togethermake only 1 sound
    • “th”, “sh”, “ph”, “th”, “ch”, and “wh”
  1. Is the consonant surrounded by vowels?
    • Does the 1st vowel have a long sound? (Like the ‘i’ in line)
      • Divide before the consonant.
      • ba/by, re/sult, i/vy, fro/zen, Cu/pid
    • Does the 1st vowel have a short sound? (Like the ‘i’ in mill)
      • Divide after the consonant.
      • rav/age, met/al, riv/er, mod/el, cur/tal
  1. Is there a ‘ckle’ in the word?  Divide right before the ‘le’.
    • tack/le, freck/le, tick/le, buck/le
  1. Is there a ‘le’ (no ‘ck’ in front)?  Divide 1 letter before the ‘le’.
    • ap/ple, rum/ble, fa/ble, ta/ble



Examples of a few words divided into syllables:

2 Player Play/er
2 Mainstream Main/stream
2 Project Pro/ject
2 Autumn Au/tumn
2 Kicking Kick/ing
2 Teacher Teach/er
2 Nonsense Non/sense
2 Mother Moth/er
2 Boyfriend Boy/friend
2 Market Mar/ket
3 ideas i/de/as
3 Overly O/ver/ly
4 Coincidence Co/in/ci/dence
4 Profitable Prof/it/a/ble
4 American A/mer/i/can
4 Superficial Su/per/fi/cial
4 Development De/ve/lop/ment
5 Humiliated Hu/mil/i/at/ed
6 Autobiography Au/to/bi/og/ra/phy

By Ela Britchkow, Speech and Language Pathologist
©2016 Ela Britchkow

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