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A syllable is a sequence of speech sounds (formed from vowels and consonants) organized into a single unit. Syllables act as the building blocks of a spoken word, determining the pace and rhythm of how the word is pronounced.
The three structural elements of a syllable are the nucleus, the onset, and the coda.
Syllables can be structured several ways, but they always contain a nucleus, which is (usually) formed from a vowel sound. The nucleus is the core of the syllable, indicating its individual “beat” within a word; the number of syllables in a word will be determined by the number of vowel sounds forming their nuclei.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the minimal articulated unit of speech, consisting of one or several sounds that form a compact phonetic entity and that occur during one chest pulse. Proponents of various theories concerning the syllable believe that a syllable is produced by one muscular contraction, by modulation (narrowing and widening) of the pharynx, or by the degree of sonority and the order in which sounds are uttered.

A syllable is composed of a beginning (onset), a peak (nucleus), and a final part (coda). A peak is formed by simple vowels (ma-ma), by sonorants in some languages (Czech prst, “finger”), and occasionally by obstruents (psst!). A syllable’s beginning and end are formed by one or more consonants; in some languages a syllable may consist only of a peak (o-ni, “they”). Syllables are closed when they end in a consonant and open when they end in a vowel. They are uncovered when they begin with a vowel and covered when they begin with a consonant. The commonest syllable structure, found in all languages of the world, is consonant followed by vowel.

Division into syllables often does not correspond to division into morphemes. In the word ruchka (“handle”), morphemes for example, there are two syllables (ru-chka) but three morphemes (ruch-k-a). In syllabic languages, such as Chinese, morphemes are generally monosyllabic and syllable and morpheme boundaries coincide. In such languages, the beginning of a syllable is contrasted to its end, which is limited to certain permissible sounds.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first series of words consisted of two open syllables; in the second series, an open syllable without an onset and coda was followed by a closed syllable. In the third series, containing a consonant cluster at the syllable boundary, types of syllables (open/closed) were left unidentified for the ambiguity of syllable division, which was mentioned in the Introduction.
Short vowels in Hindko can only be found in closed syllables while long vowels are permissible in both open and closed syllables.
For words ending in closed syllables, the phonological structure of the penultimate syllable seems to be irrelevant (Groups 5 and 6), probably because nearly all such words in the data set contain open penultimate syllables (128 out of 135 words).
5) In stressed closed syllables, all vowels other than in 3) are short, except as provided in 4).
(18) Closed syllable shortening examples: [tu:] 'six' /tu:/ Glo., p.
The need for flexibility is reinforced by an analysis of two-syllable words containing open and closed syllables (Greif, 1981).
Why are you so sure there never was any Closed Syllable Lengthening?
If a word ends in <<a, u, y, y>> or if these vowels are in the final closed syllable, then the stress is on these vowels.
The word difficile has all open syllables (CV/CV/CV/CV) in soutenu, but ends with a closed syllable (CV/CV/CVC) in speech.
That the winner [po.[p.sup.y]a] is better than [] can be attributed to the markedness constraint NOCODA in (4b), which I repeat below in (31a): the loser [], in contrast to the winner [po.[p.sup.y]a], has a closed syllable. What this implies is that NOCODA is ranked above UNIFORMITY, as shown in (31b): (31) a.
Another possibility is to account for the lenition of closed syllable onsets by referring to foot isochrony (Viitso 2003 : 162; Eek, Meister 2004 : 345).
In other words, two closed syllables and three open syllables.