I> Definition and Nature of the syllable II> Structure of the syllable III> Syllable division IV> Strong and weak syllables V> Syllabic consonants

I> Definition and Nature of the syllable
I.1> Definition According to Richard et al. [1993: 307], syllable is a unit in speech which is often larger than a sound and smaller than a whole word, e.g. paper consists of two syllables pa-per. Syllables do not carry any meaning

I.2> Nature of syllable Phonetics (the way we produce a syllable and the way it sounds)
a syllable contains a centre having little or no air obstruction and sounding relatively loud. Before and after the centre, there will be more air obstruction and less loudness.  A syllable may -be a single vowel in isolation (minimal syllable) which is precede and followed by silence, e.g. or /0:/; -have an onset (there is more than just silence preceding the centre), e.g. far /f@:/; -have no onset but have a coda, e.g. it /1t/; -have both onset and coda, e.g. fat /f%t/.

Phonology (the way vowels and consonants combine to form various speech sequences)
A syllable may -begin with a vowel; -begin with no more than three consonants; -end with a vowel; -end with no more than four consonants.

II> Structure of the syllable
Syllable onset rhyme peak coda

Example & transcription

Number of ONSET





Onset - The optional initial consonant or consonants are called the onset.

girl/gɜ:l/ book/bʊk/ sting/stiŋ/ spin/spin/ sway/swei/ scan/skæn/ play/plei/ try/trai/ quick/kwik/ few/fju:/ split/split/ spring/spriŋ/ square/skweǝ/ skew/skju:/ string/striŋ/ screen/skri:n/

l g b (any consonant except ŋ; ʒ is rare) s s s s t p w k (any consonant) p t k f (any consonant) s s s s s s p p k k t k l, r, w, j

ɜ: $ 1 1 e1 æ ei ai 1 u: i i eǝ u: i i:




l, r, w, j

- The optional final consonant or consonants are called the coda. Together the nucleus and coda from the rhyme.
Example & transcription Number of CODA CENTER Pre-final Final Post-final 1 Post-final 2 Post-final 3

are/a:/ girl/gɜ:l/, book/bʊk/ mailed/meild/ dolt/dǝʊlt/ bump/bʌmp/ bent/bent/ bank/bæŋk/ ask/a:sk/ bets/bets/ beds/bedz/ backed/bækt/ bagged/bægd/ eighth/eitθ/ maps/mæps/ fifth/fifθ/ helped/helpt/ banks/ bæŋks/ bonds/bɒndz/ twelfth/twelfθ/ bumps/bʌmps/ fifths/fifθs/ next/nekst/ lapsed/læpst/ twelfths/twelfθs/ prompts/prɒmpts/ sixths/siksθs/

0 1 2

a: ɜ: ʊ ei ǝʊ ʌ e æ a: e e æ æ ei æ i e æ ɒ e ʌ i e æ e ɒ i l m l ŋ n l m l, m, n, ŋ s l, k(any consonant, except h, r, w, j) d t p t t k t d k g t p f p k d f p f k p f p k s, z, t, d, θ



t, s, z, θ


θ s s θ t s s

s t t s s θ s



Summary: the maximum phonological structure of the English syllable
preinitial initial postinitial PEAK prefinal final postfinal1 postpost-


final 2 final 3



III> Syllable division

Maximum onsets principle: where two syllables are to be divided, any consonants between them should be attached to the right-hand syllable, not the left, as far as possible within the restrictions governing syllable onsets and codas.

-E.g.: extra /ek.str6/  Syllables with a short vowel (1 e % ^ 4 $) and no coda do not occur in English (unless the vowel 6). -E.g.: letter / let.6 /, marry / m%r.1/

Possibility: a consonant that stands between vowels can belong to both syllables ambisyllabic consonants

-E.g.: letter / le.t6 /, marry / m%.r1/

IV> Strong and weak syllables
 

‘Strong’ and ‘weak’: refer to the characteristics of syllables in the light of length, intensity, and quality of vowel. The vowel in a weak syllable tends to be shorter, of low intensity, and different in quality. E.g.: in the word mother /m^56/. In English some syllables are strong while many others are weak. Strong syllables are stressed and weak syllables unstressed. Any strong syllable will have as its peak one of the vowel phonemes (or possibly a triphthong) but not ǝ, i or u. If the vowel is short, then the strong syllable will always have a coda as well. Weak syllables can only have one of a very small number of possible peaks: /6 1 $/

V> Syllabic consonants

Syllabic [l̩ ] : muddle[mʌdl̩] ;wrestle[resl̩] ; struggle [ str^gl̩] alveolar/non-alveolar+ Syllabic [l̩] Syllabic [nͅ]: ‘tonight’[tnͅait]; 'eaten‘[i:tnͅ]; listen [ lisnͅ] Alveolar plosive & fricative+ Syllabic [nͅ] Syllabic [mͅ] & [7ͅ ͅ]: happen[hæpmͅ]; broken key [br6$k7ͅ ͅ] assimilation/elision+Syllabic [mͅ] & [7ͅ ͅ] Syllabic [rͅ]: particular [ prͅtik6lrͅ]Hungary /hʌŋgrͅi/ American accent (rhotic r)+Syllabic [rͅ] Combination of syllabic consonants: national [næʃnͅl̩ ]; visionary/viʒnͅr1ͅ]