Introduction to Syllables
Syllables a used in words to form a pattern or beat. Some words have more than one syllable, but each word will have at least one. If you listen closely to native English speakers you can hear the pattern of the syllables. End and beginning syllables can take on different sounds depending on the words in front of or behind them.
Three Types of Syllables
There are three types of syllables. The most common is stressed which can be found in every word. The least common is the secondary stressed syllables. Non stressed syllables are found in words that have more than one syllable and are more common that secondary stressed syllables. The main rhythm or beat of the word is found with the stressed syllable. The unstressed and secondary stressed syllables fill in the gaps in the word. Remember that for any word you always have a stressed syllable and only one of them.
Single syllable words have the stress on the word itself. The emphasis is on the first part of the word. In a multi-syllable word the stressed syllable receives the emphasis or intonation. The sound is higher than the rest of the other syllables and is typically longer.
In a multi-syllable word the unstressed syllable is said softer than the stressed syllable. In many cases there is a neutral vowel sound referred to as the schwa. This is the most common of all the unstressed syllables. Keep in mind that the schwa can be spelled in many different ways. There are other types of unstressed sounds but the schwa is the one worth remembering.
Secondary Stressed Syllable
It is not common for words to have a secondary stressed syllable. When it does happen it is usually two syllables away from the stressed syllable. The stress is stronger than the unstressed but softer than the stressed syllable.
Nine Main Rules For Syllables
There are exceptions to nearly every rule that you learn in English. However, here are ten common rules to help you understand not only pronunciation, but also spelling when you hear the word.
1. For each syllable they can only have one vowel sound only. There are syllables that have more than one vowel, but there can only be one vowel sound. When the vowels combine they usually make a long vowel sound. The main thing to remember is that there is only one vowel sound.
2. Vowels produce a long sound when it is located at the end of a syllable. Do not forget to produce the long sound.
3. The opposite of rule two happens when the vowel is not at the end of a syllable. In this case it will have a short sound when you say it out loud.
4. If you have two of the same consonants next to each other, this is where the syllables are usually divided. You do not do this when the double consonants are part of a syllable that is part of the base word.
5. When there are two vowels next to each other they usually stay together. This is called the vowel team rule. Keep them together in the same syllable.
6. In words with a final silent “e”, the silent “e” and the other vowel stay in the same syllable. This forms a long vowel sound for the other vowel.
7. When you have the combination of “ar”, “er”, “ir”, “or” and “ur”, they will stay in the same syllable.
8. With the “le” sounds they will stay in the same syllable. Examples are “ble”, “cle”, “dle”, “fle”, “gle” and “ple” in the same syllable. As stated above these syllables have the schwa sound between the consonant and the “le”. Remember to practice learning the schwa sound!
9. Unstressed vowel sounds most commonly have the schwa sound. This is especially true when there is only one letter that can be found in the syllable.