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Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules

Syllable Rules

The 20 Syllable Rules

Teachers should take a look at the importance of direct instruction in syllabication. The syllable rules provide helpful guides to proper pronunciation, spelling, and reading. Check out How to Teach Syllabication once you’ve skimmed the following syllable rules. The Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules are critical to accurate pronunciation, decoding, and spelling. Knowing the patterns of affixes and roots will also facilitate vocabulary acquisition.

Syllable Rule #1: Every syllable has a vowel. The common vowels are a, e, i, o, and u.

Syllable Rule #2: When the vowel is not at the end of a syllable, it has a short sound. The Vowel-Consonant (VC) and Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) patterns are called closed syllables. For example, bas-ket is a CVC-CVC word with the short vowels ă and ě.

Syllable Rule #3: When the vowel is at the end of a syllable, it has a long sound. The Consonant-Vowel (CV) and Consonant-Consonant-Vowel (CCV) patterns are called open syllables. For example, be-low is a VC-VC word with the long vowels ā and ō.

Syllable Rule #4: Vowel digraphs are paired vowels that have only one vowel sound. Usually the first vowel indicates the sound of the vowel digraph. For example, in the word boat, the vowel digraph is “oa” and the sound is /ō/. Usually keep vowel digraphs in the same syllable.

Syllable Rule #5: Base words are roots that form complete words. A root is the meaning-based syllable that may or may not connect to prefixes or suffixes. Usually keep the original spelling of the base word when connecting to prefixes and suffixes. For example, kick in kicking.

Syllable Rule #6: Compound words consist of two or three base words (roots that form complete words). Usually keep the original spellings of the base words in compound words. The spelling rules do not change the spelling of the base words. For example, bridesmaid.

Syllable Rule #7: An incomplete root is the meaning-based syllable that connects to prefixes and/or suffixes. Unlike a base word, the incomplete root is not a complete word. Both ending vowels and consonants can change when connecting to other roots and suffixes. Sometimes a vowel or consonant is either added or dropped. For example, vis in visible.

Syllable Rule #8: Keep the silent final “e” and the vowel before in the same syllable. The silent final “e” makes the vowel before a long sound if there is only one consonant in between the vowel and the “e”. For example, basement.

Syllable Rule #9: Vowel diphthongs are paired vowels that have two vowel sounds. For example, “au” in sauces. Like vowel digraphs, they stay in the same syllable.

Syllable Rule #10: Prefixes are meaningful word parts attached to the beginnings of words. More than one prefix can begin a word. For example, mis and under in misunderstand.

Syllable Rule #11: Suffixes are word parts attached to the endings of words. They can add meaning to the word or indicate a part of speech. More than one suffix can end a word. For example, on and al in seasonal.

Syllable Rule #12: Consonant digraphs, such as sh, and consonant blends, such as str, stay in the same syllable. For example, shallow and straighten. The /sh/ consonant digraph frequently changes to another consonant sound between different grammatical forms of the same root. For example, /sh/ to /k/ in musician and magic.

Syllable Rule #13: Keep the r-controlled vowels (ar, er, ir, or, and ur) in the same syllable. For example, er-ror.

Syllable Rule #14: Divide syllables between doubled consonants, for example for-gét-ting, unless the doubled consonant is part of a syllable included in a base word, for example ful-fill-ment.

Syllable Rule #15: Some short vowel sounds change to the soft /uh/ schwa sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in cónduct and conductor the “o” changes from a short vowel to a schwa.

Syllable Rule #16: Some long vowel sounds change to the soft /uh/ schwa sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in repeat and repetition the “e” changes from a long vowel to a schwa.

Syllable Rule #17: Some long vowel sounds change to the short vowel sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in nation and national the “a” changes from a long vowel to a short vowel.

Syllable Rule #18: Some silent consonants are pronounced when connected to different grammatical forms of the same root. For example, numb and number.

Syllable Rule #19: Many Greek and Latin prefixes change their spellings to match the roots to which they attach in order to make pronunciation easier. For example, in and mobile becomes immobile. These “chameleons” can change either their consonant or vowel spellings. Check out How to Teach Greek and Latin Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots.

Syllable Rule #20: Many Greek and Latin suffixes are morphemes, which means that the word part is meaningful. For example, viewable. Other suffixes serve as inflections, which means that the suffix helps change the part of speech, but does not add meaning to the word. For example, started.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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  1. mel
    July 14th, 2013 at 18:38 | #1

    Rule #13 – The er-ror looks good on papers but when we break it up into syllables, it sounds like e-rror. That is why the “e” doesn’t sound as an r-controlled digraph, but simply as a short e. This is similar to the word Hero. The “e” and the “r” are in two separate syllables. The difference is that when this word is divided as it actually sounds,
    he-ro, it also looks good on paper. It’s not about what looks good in workbooks, it’s about the word sounds when we break it into syllables.

  2. July 14th, 2013 at 21:23 | #2

    No, that is a perfect example of an r-controlled vowel. In this case the vowel has a long a sound due to the French errour from the Latin. I don’t know of any dialect in which it has a short e sound. However, you are right to point out the difference between syllable division by pronunciation and by meaning.

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