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Syllabification: orally [Where to divide syllables?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by inib, Jun 30, 2012.

  1. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    I was never taught anything about syllabication in (my own) English, and I think my "instinct" may now be influenced by the rules I do know in Spanish.
    This unreliable instinct would lead me to believe that bro-ther is better than broth-er!
    I just googled the subject and found a nice, easy-to-understand summary... http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/english/index.pl?read=2013, but I'd appreciate your opinion on it (apart from the spelling mistakes). Is this the sort of info I could pass on to elementary students?
    I was also surprised by the example of "orally" in rule 7 - I would have guessed o-ra-lly. (Please note that I put the two "l"s together because I'm interested in phonetic syllables, not end-of-line hyphenation rules.)
    Many thanks for any hints you can give me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  2. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    Hello inib.

    We won't discuss the whole list. We need a more specific question. Also the post should contain all the information necessary to answer your question. We should not have to click through to another webpage.

    I will copy rule 7 here. This can be the focus of this thread:

    If you have questions about any other specific rule, you are welcome to start another thread to ask it. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  3. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    Ok, Cagey. Thanks for your comments. I'm happy receive any help about the specific example of "orally" and centre the discussion on this. Should anyone wish to comment on the rest of the rules, I suppose they could do it by private message, right?
     
  4. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    Added: Here is a previous thread that may be helpful: pronunciation - literally

    As you are interested in syllabification of the spoken language, you could search for threads on pronunciation. You can look through the long list of threads for ones that seem useful. That is how I found the one above.

    (I checked the threads on several words with an internal double ll. In none of them were the ll's divided into separate syllables.)

    (Edit: Off-topic comments can always be made by private message, though we would rather you didn't solicit them. ;))

    Edit #2: This thread contradicts my earlier assertion; the ll's are divided: pronunciation of "allied"
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  5. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    Thanks again for all your research and help. The threads I've just seen under the most promising titles in "pronunciation" (though I confess I haven't been through all of them) deal with the pronunciation of words, variants on the pronunciation, stressed syllables and even the number of syllables, but I'm yet to find one that actually discusses exactly where the syllabic division lies, except the thread I originally posted on... http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=546859
     
  6. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    The problem is, that we wouldn't deal with the rules for syllabification in the abstract, but only in relation to a certain context: a word, a combination of letters, etc.

    Let's see whether I can change the title to encourage this discussion.
     
  7. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    My first port of call may not be a great authority on the subject, but the (limit of 4 quoted) sentences from the Wiki article explain why I have always wondered about "syllabification" in English and what one might gain by learning more about it (beyond the etymologocal and morphological aspects involved). It would seem to be a retrospective effort, with various possible "rules" to be deduced or assigned (and disputed?), but I'm always open to learning more from discussions on this forum :D On the other hand, for Japanese for example, where the language is based on syllables/ with their one-to-one correspondence with characters, there is also little to be learned beyond learning the list of syllables/characters.
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi inib

    Can you explain a bit more about why you want to get into the issue of syllabification with your students? You say that you don't want them to be able to split words across lines, but I think that's the usual reason for looking at syllabification. Is it, perhaps, to help them with the pronunciation of words they've seen written?

    The link you gave in post 1 does seem to start from the written language (eg in its reference to "keeping vowel teams together" as in boat-ing). I imagine it recommends or-al-ly in line with its suggestion that consonant-vowel-consonant syllables have a short vowel, whereas syllables ending in a vowel have a long one. But while the l-l break is useful morphologically, I don't think it's helpful phonetically, implying as it does that there are two distinct /l/ sounds.

    For me, the bottom line is that looking at syllabification in English isn't particularly helpful in pronunciation terms:(.

    EDIT. I hadn't seen Julian's post when I wrote this. But I agree with him...:)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  9. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    Many thanks to both Julian and Loob. Your comments suggest that I'm rather flogging a dead horse here, and confirm what I'd read elsewhere that there really doesn't seem to be universal agreement, or even a lot of interest about what I am asking, so I gratefully rest my case.
    My own understanding of phonetics is very limited so I was looking for some very basic information.
    Loob, the initial reason for my query is that my Spanish-speaking students of English are often required to underline the stressed syllable of an English word. I generally tell them not to worry too much about exactly where that syllable begins and ends and just to make sure they get the right vowel :eek: but I was hoping to give them better information in the future. They seem very disappointed when their teacher isn't even bothered whether it's bro-ther or broth-er/o-ra-lly or or-al-ly!
    Just like so many other inter-lingual issues, maybe no comparisons can be made, but I didn't want to not give them an answer just because I didn't know myself.
    Julian, the above sounds like a more than sufficient explanation for anything my students are likely to ask!

    Many thanks again to both.
     
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ah, I see!
    For pronunciation purposes, it is extremely important in English to know where the stress falls. But I really don't think it matters where they make the syllable break, provided they choose the right syllable. I think your advice to your students is very wise:thumbsup:.

    Using Julian's explanation seems like an exceedingly wise course of action too:D.
     
  11. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Thinking about syllabification in English is usually flogging a dead horse. There are some environments - some - where it makes a phonetic difference. In some accents, such as standard BrE, /l/ is pronounced differently ('clear' or 'dark', velarized or non-velarized) depending on whether it's at the beginning or end of a syllable. In words such as 'orally' it's clear in these accents, so the division gives /li/ as a syllable: the /l/ is at the beginning. Another example is the aspiration of voiceless stops. But in my accent at least, the word 'orally' simply cannot be divided neatly into separately pronounceable syllables. It begins with a short vowel, which cannot be said in isolation. It needs a consonant following. Unfortunately the consonant is /r/, which cannot occur at the end of a syllable. Result: syllabic analysis is spurious.

    British and American printers have conventions for when to turn a word with a hyphen, but these don't have to correspond to any important linguistic facts, just matters of spelling or etymology as much as pronunciation. Syllabification just is not important in English - and I can't see any reason why it should matter in any other language either.
     
  12. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    Thanks, entangledbank, for your confirmation. It seems that I asked a very daft question, but it was kind of you all to have the patience to answer :)
     
  13. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Surely there is no general theory - English is essentially practical on this (as on most things). The point is that syllables should, where possible, make sense. Broth-er-ly doesn't make sense, because it suggests that the word has some connection with broth (= clear soup). Bro-ther-ly suggests a connection with bro (an abbreviation for brother), which is correct.

    This was brought home to me very forcibly when, translating a brochure for a very elegant hotel, I wrote:

    You can have lunch on the terrace looking over the valley.

    The French publisher used software that followed the French rule: that each syllable should begin with a consonant. And so he printed, in narrow columns:

    You can have lunch on the terrace loo-
    king over the valley.

    Collapse of the carefully nurtured 4-star image!
     
  14. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    There's no such thing as a daft question, inib!

    (I loved the story, Keith:D.)
     
  15. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    Now the thread has definitely been worth it, even if it was only for hearing that great anecdote.
     

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