Syllables – Concept, Classification and Examples

We explain what syllables are, what the stressed and unstressed syllables consist of. Simple, compound, free, locked syllables and examples.

All words have syllables, from the longest to those with only one.

What are syllables?

It is called syllables a the phonological units into which any word is divided, according to the minimum grouping of their articulated sounds, which generally means the union of a vowel and one or more consonants. Said in simpler terms, it is about the sound fragments into which we can divide a word, respecting the logic of its pronunciation.

All words are made up of syllables, from the longest to those with only one, and each syllable also has a nucleus, which in Spanish is always the vowel, since its sound receives a greater emphasis on pronunciation. For example, in the syllables “man-“, “-cha-” and “da”, the vowel a would be the nucleus of each one. Considering the number of syllables in a word, we can classify them into monosyllables (1), bisyllables (2), trisyllables (3), tetrasyllables (4) and polysyllables (5 or more).

Likewise, syllables can be classified in different ways, some of which we will detail later. This distinction may seem scholarly, but in some languages ​​it is essential given its syllabic nature, such as Japanese: each sign of your writing does not represent a simple sound, as in Spanish, but the sound of a complete syllable.

In addition, the correct syllabic division of a word allows us to interrupt it when we run out of writing space in a line, continuing it below without affecting the understanding of the word.

Stressed and unstressed syllables

Stressed and unstressed syllables
The stressed syllable is pronounced louder than the rest.

Within the same word, syllables are pronounced with very different intonation. Some receive a similar, regular intonation, while only one has a greater, more intense intonation, becoming the sound center of the word. The latter is known as the stressed syllable: the syllable on which the prosodic accent falls (not necessarily the orthographic accent, that is, the written one) and is pronounced more strongly than the rest (then called unstressed syllables).

For example, in the word “fell” the stressed syllable is the last, and is also marked with a spelling accent. But in the word “cayo” the stressed syllable is the first and does not have a spelling accent. They are two different words with different meanings, and this difference is marked phonetically by the location of the stressed syllable. The same thing happens with “mama” and “mama”, or with “supplication”, “I beg” and “begged”.

The stressed syllables are also considered as the nucleus of the word, and depending on their location, we can distinguish four types of words in Spanish:

  • Sharp Those whose stressed syllable corresponds to the last syllable: “ca-pi-tán”.
  • Serious or flat. Those whose stressed syllable corresponds to the penultimate syllable: “ca-re-ta”.
  • Esdrújulas. Those whose stressed syllable corresponds to the penultimate syllable: “co-mi-co”.
  • Overdrives. Those whose stressed syllable is located anywhere before the penultimate syllable: “á-gil-men-te”.

Simple and compound syllables

Depending on the number of letters involved in the same syllable, we can know the complexity or simplicity of their joint sound, and classify them according to this criterion. Thus, simple syllables, with only two letters, a vowel and a consonant, they will be simple syllables: “ma-má”, “ta-za”, “bo-te”, “lo-mo”, “ca-sa”; While complex syllables, with more than two letters in the same voice emission, will be compound syllables: “pas-tar”, “cro-tos”, “plan-cha”, “bru-jas”, “gra-tis “, “joke“.

Free and locked syllables

If the syllable ends in a consonant, it will be considered closed or locked.

Also known as open and closed syllables, are distinguished by the presence of a syllabic coda. Thus, free syllables lack a coda and locked syllables present it.

However, a syllabic coda is nothing more than a type of consonant ending of the syllable, since its nucleus must generally be a syllable or a diphthong. That is to say: if the syllable ends in a consonant, it will be considered closed or locked, as is the case with “cor-”, “pa-”, “sen-”, “tris-”, “-tar”, “-bir “, Etc., since said consonant constitutes a syllabic coda. On the contrary, if the syllable ends in a vowel, it will lack a coda and will be considered open, as is the case of “-to”, “-pá”, “-da”, “-te”, “re-”, “ su- “, etc.

Words separated into syllables

Here are several examples of words separated into syllables (the stressed syllable is underlined):

  • Beans Po-ro-tos
  • Shell. Shell
  • Spark plug. Spark plug
  • Surprise. Surprise
  • Justice. Justice
  • Motel. Motel
  • Weasel. Weasel
  • Tulle. Tulle
  • Biorhythm. Bio-rrit-mo
  • Giant. Giant
  • Well. Well
  • Disinterested. Disinterested
  • Example. Example
  • Quickly. Quickly
  • Fast paced. Tre-pi-dan-te
  • Monotonously. Mo-nó-to-na-men-te
  • Service. Service
  • He starred. Pro-ta-go-ni-zó
  • Adversity. Adversity
  • Small. Small
  • Holistic. Ho-li-ti-co
  • Frequency. Frequency
  • Impertinent. Impertinent
  • Behave. Behave
  • Nuclei Nucleus
  • Xylophone. Xylophone
  • Dodecahedron. Dodecahedron
  • Corruption. Corruption
  • So-and-so. Fu-la-no
  • Pus. Pus
  • Cloudy. Ob-nu-bi-la-do
  • Village. Village
  • Boss. Boss
  • Organization. Organization
  • Shoes. Shoes
  • Bearded men. Bar-bu-dos
  • Formula. Formula
  • Lion. Lion
  • Kick. Kick
  • Computer. Computer
  • Match. Match
  • Subtraction. Subtraction
  • Immigrant. Immigrant
  • Logarithm. Logarithm
  • Speculators. Es-pe-cu-la-do-res
  • Laughter. Laughter
  • He coughed. To-sió
  • Telephony. Telephony
  • Fingers. Fingers
  • Cocoon. Cocoon
  • Stones Pie-dras
  • Optimized. Op-ti-mi-za-do
  • Numbers. Numbers
  • Throat. Throat
  • Police station. Police station
  • Abnormality. Abnormality
  • Ugly. Ugly
  • Hollow. Hollow
  • Falter. Falter
  • Soup. Soup
  • Basting. Hil-va-nan-do
  • Left handed. Left handed
  • Fiddle. Fiddle
  • Brontosaurus. Bron-to-sau-rio
  • Foulness. Foulness
  • Nomenclature. Nomenclature
  • Septic. Septic
  • Reduce. Reduce
  • Homosexual. Homosexual
  • Boredom. Boredom
  • Marrow. Marrow
  • Incense. Sa-hu-me-laughed
  • Abrasion. Abrasion
  • Grotesque. Grotesque
  • Colleagues. Colleagues
  • Epic. Epic
  • Youth. Thu-see-ni-les
  • Magical. Magical
  • Lout. Lout
  • Flavored Sa-bo-ri-za-da
  • Meteorites Me-te-o-ri-cough
  • Perception. Perception
  • Tires. Tires
  • Ergonomic. Ergonomic
  • Syllable. Syllable
  • Yes. Yes
  • Former president. Former president
  • Velocipede. See-it-c-pe-do
  • Globalization. Glo-ba-li-za-tion
  • Lobotomy. Lobotomy
  • Fortitude. En-te-re-za
  • Leave it to me. Give it to me
  • Catapult. Catapult
  • Turned off. A-pa-gó
  • Placate. Placate
  • Syncretism. Syncretism
  • Integral. Integral
  • Geodesic. Geodesic
  • Customary Con-sue-tu-di-na-rio
  • Anesthesia. Anesthesia
  • Plunger. Plunger
  • Cicada. Cicada
  • Molarity Mo-la-ri-dad
  • Success. Success
  • They insulted. In-sul-ta-ron
  • Epistemological. E-pis-te-mo-ló-gi-co
  • Verification. Verification
  • Reading. Reading
  • Bread. Bread
  • Moral Mo-ra-le-ja
  • Indomitable. Indomitable
  • Disincorporation. Dis-in-cor-po-ra-tion
  • Gently. Gently
  • Fragile. Fra-gi