AD's English Literature : KEY TO SYLLABIFICATION


1. In matters of syllabifying, there are no concrete rules, no invariable guidelines or no supreme authorities. So, it is often seen that a word can be syllabified in two ways. But the number of syllables is always the same in a word, in spite of its different kinds of syllabification. Examples follow –
* Even = e–ven / ev – en:
* Passive= pass-ive / pas-sive:
* Familiar = fa-mi-liar / fam-I-liar
[In each case, both the ways of syllabification are valid.]

2. As the vowel sound is the heart of a syllable, we, whenever to syllabify a word, must be guided by pronunciation, by the sound of the word but never by etymology or the letters or the spelling of the word. Examples follow-

* Peruse = pe-ruse (but ‘per-use’ not acceptable);
* Running = run-ning (but ‘run-ing’ or ‘runn-ing’ not correct);
* Island = is-land (but ‘isl-and’ not acceptable);
* Iron = iron (but ‘I-ron’ or ‘ir-on’ incorrect. ‘Iron’ is monosyllabic);
* Difference= diffe-rence (but not ‘dif-fe-rence’);
* Different = diffe-rent (but not ‘dif-fe-rent’);
* Colonel = colo-nel (but not ‘co-lo-nel’).
N.B. – The words “difference” and “different” are disyllabic but not trisyllabic, while “differing” is trisyllabic “dif-fer-ing”. Similarly, “colonel” is disyllabic despite its deceptive spelling.

3. We have some words, which end with a consonant letter. Often these words receive a suffix and that last consonant gets doubled. Then the syllabification should be done in the following manner:

* Saddest = sad-dest
* Sobbing = sob-bing;
* Running = run-ning;
* Beginning = be-gin-ning;
* Batted = bat-ted;
* Patted = pat-ted;
* Cutter= cut-ter;
* Scanner = scan-ner;
* Shutter =shut-ter;
* Madden = mad-den;

4. In the root disyllabic or polysyllabic words having similar kind of double consonant in the middle. The syllabification should be like the following:

*Butter= but-ter;
*Utter= ut-ter;
*College= col-lege;
*Syllable= syl-la-ble;
*Collar= col-lar;
*Supper= sup-per;
*Attack= at-tack.

5. But we’ve many root words which end with double consonant letter. When these words receive suffixes and become polysyllabic, the syllabification should be different. Examples follow:

 *Oddity= odd-I-ty;

*Hilly= hill-y;
*Fuller= full-er;
*Missing= miss-ing;
*Calling= call-ing;

6. However, this system of syllabification (of such words having double consonant) may not be followed too rigorously. We can often syllabify such words both the ways.

*Starry= star-ry / starr-y;
*Collar=coll-ar / col-lar;
*Beautifully- beau-ti-ful-ly / beau-ti-full-y;
*Massive= mass-ive / mas-sive.

7. When the suffix ‘-ing’ is added to some special verbs, the suffix apparently seems is make no different syllable by itself. But this is just an illusion, as the suffix still makes a syllable by itself.

*Seeing= see-ing;                              *Dying= dy-ing;
*Being=be-ing;                                 *Buying= buy-ing;
*Freeing= free-ing;                            *Carry= car-ry-ing;
*Fleeing= flee-ing;                             *Flying= fly-ing.
*Frying= fry-ing;

8. The suffix ‘ –ed’ creates much problem in matters of syllabification. Sometimes it can make an extra syllable, but sometimes it can’t. The words under the column ‘A’ have an extra syllable each created by “ –ed”; but those under ‘B’ have the same number of syllables as the words without “ –ed”.

                A                                                                             B
*Added= add-ed                ;                                               *Wished= wished;
*Cited= cit-ed;                                                    *Joined= joined;
*Lighted= light-ed;                                            *Shared=shared;
*Mounted=mount-ed;                                     *Thanked= thanked;
*Crooked= crook-ed;                                        *Called= called;
*Guarded= guard-ed;                                        *Cared= cared;
*Adjusted= ad-just-ed;                                    *Engaged= en-gaged;
*Communicated= com-mu-ni-cat-ed               *Encouraged= en-cou-raged.

9. Any of the consonant sounds which has the power to constitute a syllable, together with another consonant but without any vowel sound, is called ‘syllabic’. Mainly, the sounds /i/ and /n/ are syllabic consonants. This syllable with a syllabic consonant must be the final syllable in the word.

*Bundle= bun-dle;                                             *Written= writ-ten;
*Little=lit-tle;                                                     *London= lon-don;
*Subtle=sub-tle;                                               *Sudden= sud-den;
*Humble= hum-ble;                                           *Beaten=bea-ten;
*Angle=an-gle;                                                 *Button= but-ton;
*Uncle= un-cle;                                                  *Listen=lis-ten;
*Supple=sup-ple.                                              *Cotton= cot-ton;
                                                                                *Permission= per-mis-sion.

10. The sounds /m/ and /r/ often cause problems when they occur in the final position and behave like syllabic consonants. Then the syllabitication should be in the following manner.

*Rhythm=rhy-thm;                                           *Metre= me-tre;
*Chasm= cha-sm;                                              *Centre=cen-tre;
*Heroism=he-ro-I-sm;                                      *Sombre= som-bre;
*Marxism=marx-I-sm;                                       *Fibre= fi-bre;
*Pleonasm= ple-o-na-sm.                                 *Genre= ge-nre.

11. The Diphthongs should not be broken into syllables. These words below show how the diphthongs always occur in a single syllable.

* /əu/ as in the words “go”, “bowl”, “throw”, “soul”, etc.
* /au/ as in the words “loud”, “mouth”, “shout”, “cow”, etc.
* /ei/ as in the words “sail”, “cane”, “lake”, “main”, etc.
* /ai/ as in the words “side”, “fight”, “height”, “guide”, “sky”, etc.
* /oi/ as in the words “coin”, “noise”, ‘choice”, “boy”, etc.
* /iə/ as in the words “fear”, “sheer”, “near”, “mere”, etc.
*/eə/ as in the words “hair”, “care”, “bare”, “there”, etc.
*/uə/ as in the words “sure”, “poor”, “pure”, “cruel”, etc.

In polysyllabic words where one syllable has a diphthong, we should be much careful to syllabify the.

*Familiar= fa-mi-liar (last syllable has a diphthong - /iə/)
*Furious= fu-rious (first syllable has /uə/ and last has /iə/)
*Pioneer= pio-near (second syllable has /iə/)
*Burial= bu-rial (second syllable has /iə/)
*Industrialization= in-dus-tria-li-za-tion (3rd syllable - /iə/; 4th - /ai/; 5th- /ei/).

12. The Diphthongs also should not be broken into syllables. These words below show how the diphthongs always occur in a single syllable.

*Our= our;                                          *Iron=iron;
*Hour= hour;                                      *Shower= shower;
*Thrower=thrower;                          *Flower= flower;
*Buyer= buyer;                                  *Power= power;
*Goer= goer;                                       *Coyer= coyer;
*Sire= sire;                                          *Shyer=shyer.

13. Often a poetic contraction causes reduction in the number of the syllables. In most cases, a disyllabic word/ phrase becomes monosyllabic because of this shortening.

  ORIGINALLY                                                     CONTRACTED INTO MONOSYLLABLE
*Over = o-ver;                                                                    *o’er = o’er;
*Ever = e-ver;                                                                     *e’er = e’er;
*It is= It is;                                                                         *It’s =it’s / ’Tis = ’Tis;
*Beneath = be-neath;                                                        *’neath = ’neath;
*Shall not = shall not;                                                       *shan’t = shan’t;
*Will not = will not;                                                           *won’t = won’t;
*Do not = do-not;                                                              *don’t = don’t;
*There is =there is;                                                           *there’s = there’s;
*I am = I am;                                                                       *I’m = I’m;
*They have = they have;                                                 *they’ve = they’ve.

14. But not all the contractions necessarily reduce the number of syllables. Both the forms of the following words are monosyllabic.

*Flower = flow’r;                                                *Shower= show’r;
*Cower = cow’r;                                 *Bower= bow’r.

All these full-form words are monosyllabic words (because the vowel sounds here are diphthongs which are not divisible). So, there is no scope for reduction in the number of syllables.

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