Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Syllable

Definition: 

A syllable is a unit of sound composed of

  • a central peak of sonority (usually a vowel), and
  • the consonants that cluster around this central peak.
Discussion: 

Syllable structure, which is the combination of allowable segments and typical sound sequences, is language specific.

 

Parts

 

Parts

Description

Optionality

Onset

Initial segment of a syllable

Optional

Rhyme

Core of a syllable, consisting of a nucleus and coda (see below)

Obligatory

– Nucleus

Central segment of a syllable

Obligatory

– Coda

Closing segment of a syllable

Optional

Examples: 

Here is an example of the syllable structure of the English word limit:

Diagram:

Here is a diagram of a syllable:

Comparison: 

 

Here are some kinds of syllables:

Kind

Description

Example

Heavy

Has a branching rhyme. All syllables with a branching nucleus (long vowels) are considered heavy. Some languages treat syllables with a short vowel (nucleus followed by a consonant (coda) as heavy.

CV:C, CVCC, CVC

Light

Has a non-branching rhyme (short vowel). Some languages treat syllables with a short vowel(nucleus) followed by a consonant (coda) as light.

CV, CVC

Closed

Ends with a consonant coda.

CVC, CVCC, VC

Open

Has no final consonant

CV

Glossary Hierarchy