A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds 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.[1] They can influence the rhythm of a language, its prosody, its poetic metre and its stress patterns. Speech can usually be divided up into a whole number of syllables: for example, the word ignite is made of two syllables: ig and nite.

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".[2]

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.

  1. ^ de Jong, Kenneth (2003). "Temporal constraints and characterising syllable structuring". In Local, John; Ogden, Richard; Temple, Rosalind (eds.). Phonetic Interpretation: Papers in Laboratory Phonology VI. Cambridge University Press. pp. 253–268. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511486425.015. ISBN 978-0-521-82402-6. Page 254.
  2. ^ Walker, Christopher B. F. (1990). "Cuneiform". Reading the Past: Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet. University of California Press; British Museum. ISBN 0-520-07431-9. as cited in Blainey, Geoffrey (2002). A Short History of the World. Chicago, IL: Dee. p. 60. ISBN 1-56663-507-1.

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