Syllable Structure and Cluster

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  • Topic: Consonant, Syllable, Vowel
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  • Published : April 27, 2013
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Syllable Structure and Consonant Clusters
Marla Yoshida University of California Irvine Extension International Programs Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate Program

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Thursday, March 1, 12

What are syllables?
• A syllable is a rhythmic unit. It’s a unit of sound that gets one “beat” in a word. • A syllable has a vowel. It might also have one or more consonants before the vowel and one or more consonants after it. • A syllable can also have a syllabic consonant instead of a vowel. A syllabic consonant is a consonant that is stretched out and acts as a vowel. For example, the last syllable in button [b "/n] or middle [mId.`l ] is usually ! . ` pronounced as a syllabic consonant.

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Thursday, March 1, 12

For example...
• Eye has one syllable (just one vowel sound: /ay/) • Bee has one syllable (one consonant and one vowel: /b iy / • Strength also has one syllable (three consonants, one vowel, two consonants: /st r ENT/) @ • Potato has three syllables: po-ta-to /p ´teytow/

• Pronunciation has five syllables: pro-nun-ci-a-tion /p r´n´nsi yeyS´n / @

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Thursday, March 1, 12

Consonant clusters
• When two or more consonants occur together, they are called a consonant cluster. (“Cluster” means “group.”) • There are restrictions on how many consonants can occur in a particular position, and which consonants can occur together. • For example, in English, /sk/, /pl/, and /spl/ are possible combinations at the beginning of a word, but /sd/, /fp/, and /zpr/ are not. • These sound like they could be possible English words, even though they’re not real words: skeb, plore, splib. • These are not possible words in English: sdeb, fpore, zprib. Back Next

Thursday, March 1, 12

Possible clusters in syllable-initial position
• It is possible to have one, two, or three consonant sounds at the beginning of a syllable, but not more. • Here are some words that illustrate common twoconsonant clusters at the beginning of syllables: • Beginning with stops: play, pray, pure, blue, brown, beauty, true, twin, dry, clean, cream, cute, quick, glow, green • Beginning with fricatives: fly, fry, few, three, slow, swim, spot, stone, skin, smile, snow, shriek, huge

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Thursday, March 1, 12

Possible clusters in syllable-initial position
• Some of these words have only one consonant letter at the beginning, even though they start with two consonant sounds: • cute, beauty, pure, few, huge • These all have the vowel sound /uw/ preceded by an “invisible /y/.” We hear a /y/ sound, which counts as a consonant, even though there’s no letter “y.” (Cute is pronounced /kyuwt/, not /kuwt/.) • In words like quick, quiet, and question, the letters qu stand for the consonant cluster /kw/.

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Thursday, March 1, 12

Possible clusters in syllable-initial position
• When three consonants come together at the beginning of a syllable: • The first consonant is always /s/. • The second is always a voiceless stop: /p/, /t/, /k/. • The third consonant is always /l/, /r/, /w/, or /y/. • Here are some words that illustrate common threeconsonant clusters at the beginning of syllables: • Splendid, spring, string, scrap, skewer, squirrel

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Thursday, March 1, 12

Possible clusters in syllable-final position
• At the end of a syllable, we can have one, two, three, or four consonants together. Many of the longer clusters are in words with the grammatical endings -s or -ed. • Here are some words ending in two consonant sounds: • Help, felt, old, milk, shelf, harp, curb, art, cord, mark, scarf, serve, bump, ant, hand, tense, ranch, strange, sink, health, else, bulge, film, earth, course, marsh, march, urge, arm, barn, girl, wasp, trust, ask, soft, apt, act, depth, tax, fourth, fifth, tenth • Did you notice that the letter x represents the consonant cluster /ks/? Back Next

Thursday, March 1, 12

Possible clusters in syllable-final position
• Here are...
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