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A Brief Study on Syllable Division: Helping Efl Learners

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Abstract: This article will present some considerations on syllable division in order to help EFL learners. Some theories will be presented so that it is possible to check the various studies on such important topic. A scheme about separating the syllables will be shown and a topic on ambisyllabicity as well.

Key-Words: Syllable Division. Theories. Syllable Structure


The syllable is a basic unit of speech studied on both the phonetic and phonological levels of analysis. For learners of English as a foreign language it is such a hard task to define and identify what a syllable is, even because there are no universally agreed upon phonetic definitions of what it is. So the main objective of this work is to present some theories about syllable definition, what syllable structure is, how syllable division works and lastly to conclude how it might be useful for any EFL learners.

The Theories

Phonetic Definition

According to Roach (2000, p. 70) syllables “are usually described as consisting of a centre which has little or no obstruction to airflow and which sounds comparatively loud; before and after that centre (…) there will be greater obstruction to airflow and/or less loud sound”. In the monosyllable (one-syllable word) cat /kжt/, the vowel /ж/ is the “centre” at which little obstruction takes place, whereas we have complete obstruction to the airflow for the surrounding plosives /k/ and /t/.

Phonological Definition

Laver (1994, p. 114) defines the phonological syllable as “a complex unit made up of nuclear and marginal elements”. Nuclear elements are the vowels or syllabic segments; marginal elements are the consonants or non-syllabic segments.

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