Syllable

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syllable

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Syllable

 

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.

V. A. VINOGRADOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
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Second syllable. The lamps are lighted up all of a sudden.
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The music rises up to the wildest pitch of stormy excitement, and the third syllable is concluded.
Not a syllable. There was an odd sort of eloquence in his one arm, which had crept round her waist: but his lips were mute.
Blend syllables into words, or split one syllable component from the rest (for example, isolate the first phoneme); iv.
"The research will involve listening to, identifying and replicating sound and stressed syllables from Welsh and Welsh speech patterns.
Syllables are very important in prosody of Thai Poetry.
Those who sang them performed better in memory tests when they were asked to learn words with similar syllables.
Syllables that are frequent across languages are recognized more readily than infrequent syllables.
In the original study, Mano and colleagues [2] found that task-irrelevant socioemotional stimuli disrupted WM in the intermediate load condition (i.e., 2 syllables) but not in the low or high WM load conditions (1 Syllable and 3 syllables, resp.).