1. Syllable

A. Definition - A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants).

Syllables are often considered the phonological "building blocks" of words. They can influence the rhythm of a language, its prosody, its poetic meter and its stress patterns.

Syllabic writing began several hundred years before the first letters. The earliest recorded syllables are on tablets written around 2800 BC in the Sumerian city of Ur. This shift from pictograms to syllables has been called "the most important advance in the history of writing".

A word that consists of a single syllable (like English dog) is called a monosyllable (and is said to be monosyllabic). Similar terms include disyllable (and disyllabic; also bisyllable and bisyllabic) for a word of two syllables; trisyllable (and trisyllabic) for a word of three syllables; and polysyllable (and polysyllabic), which may refer either to a word of more than three syllables or to any word of more than one syllable.

B. Syllable formation - a syllable can be a single word: chair, part of a word: Eng-lish, or a part of the grammatical form of the word: la-ter.

There are different points of view on syllable formation which are briefly the following:

1. The ancient theory - states that there are as many syllables in a word as there are vowels. This theory is primitive and insufficient since it does not take into consideration consonants which also can form syllables, neither does it explain the boundary of syllables.

2. The expiratory theory - by R.H. Stetson states that there are as many syllables in a word as there are expiration pulses. The borderline between the syllables is the moment of the weakest expiration. This theory is inconsistent because it is quite possible to pronounce several syllables in one effort or expiration.

3. The sonority theory - by O. Jespersen states there are as many syllables in a word as there are peaks of prominence according to the scale of sonority.

4. The “arc of loudness” or “arc of articulatory tension” theory - is based on L.V. Shcherba’s statement that the centre of a syllable is the syllable forming phoneme. Sounds which precede or follow it constitute a chain or an arc which is weak in the beginning and in the end and strong in the middle.

5. The loudness theory - introduced by N.I. Zhinkin. According to this theory the syllable is the arc of loudness which correlates with the arc of articulatory effort on the speed production level since variations in loudness are to the work of all speech mechanisms.
A syllable can be formed: 1) by a vowel V; 2) by a vowel and consonant VC; 3) by a consonant and a sonorant CS.
The English sonorants can form a syllable with consonants preceding them. The structural patterns of syllables formed by a sonorant with a preceding consonant are similar to VC patterns.
Among syllabic sonorants we find [1], [n], less commonly [m]. If sonorant is preceded by a vowel sound it loses its syllabic character and the syllable is formed by the vowel.
American linguists equate [l], [m], [n] with [əl], [əm], [ən] and thus reduce the opposition “syllabic – non-syllabic” consonant. There are some words in English which can be pronounced with either the syllabic or non-syllabic [l] and [n].
Sonorants are syllabic in contracted negative forms of auxiliary and modal verbs: didn't and in the position between two noise consonants:absent.
The English sonorants [w], [j], [r] are non-syllabic, because they are syllable-initial.
Polysyllabic words are divided into syllables according to the number of vowels phonemes or syllabic consonants they contain.
Clusters str, sl, gr, dr, fr, tr, bl, plpr etc. can occur in initial position and can’t be divided.
Sequences of consonants tm, dm, tn, dn, dv, kt, tk, tl, dl, θl, jr, nr, t∫r, sθ, sj, sr, ms, ns can’t occur word-initially and can be divided.
Digraphs th, wh, ph, ch are not phonologically divided but only graphically.
A phonetic syllable consists of actually pronounced speech sounds. A phonetic syllable and orthographic syllable do not always coincide. For example in the word name there two orthographic syllables na-me and one phonetic syllable [neim].

C. Syllable division - Phonotactics – the study of the rules governing the possible phoneme sequences in a language. Phonotactic possibilities of a language determine the rules of syllable division.

Syllable division rules can be defined as follows:

1. An intervocalic consonant tends to belong to the following syllabic sound in cases when a consonant is preceded by a long vowel or a diphthong, as they are always free at the end.

2. In the case of a short stressed vowel followed by a consonant, intervocalic consonant tends to belong to the preceding syllable as the English checked vowels can occur only in a close

2. Rhythm of English Speech

A. Rhythm and its Features - rhythm is the internal law of English language. It is the regular occurrence of phonetics in a given time. Rhythm in English speech is based on stress . It is, in brief, the  pattern of regular arrangement and alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Rhythm group and its division
1) The smallest unit of English rhythm is the rhythm group, which is called a foot in English poetry. The rhythm group is made up of only one stressed syllable  plus what unstressed syllable(s) that may follow.
2) Any unstressed syllables that precede the first rhythm group may be regarded as silent beat.
           |John and his / |brother / | went into the / `room/.
           |Would you / |mind / |calling back /`later/?
           It’s /|not /|quite what I / `wanted /.

B. Features of English Rhythm - English rhythm has two prominent features:

1. The basic tendency of English rhythm is that the stressed syllable follows each other at roughly equal interval of time. The correct English rhythm is natural and wave-like.

2. English is a stress–timed language, which implies that stressed syllables tend to occur at a fairly regular intervals of time, i.e., the period of time from each stressed syllable to the next is approximately the same, irrespective of the number of intervening unstressed syllables.

           | Pat is / |staying at the / |cheap ho/ `tel /.
           | Have you any / |silk of this / |colour and / ``pattern/ ?

This feature of English has great influence upon the speed of utterance and the length of sounds, especially the vowels.

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