Syllables: the core components

by | Jan 9, 2023 | 15 weeks of talking tips

 

Talking Tip #13: Knowing about syllables and the phonemes of a language can help with speech clarity.

 

This post addresses a few of the core components of our speech and language syllables and phomemes.  When we talk, what exactly are we saying?  Do we talk in big unintelligible glops of words run together?  Or is there a structure underlying that?  In fact, there is, and knowing this structure just might help a bit in the clarity of our speaking.

 

Thought Groups to syllables

We communicate in thought groups, ideas made up of words and sentences.  When we speak, we don’t necessarily think about how those thought groups are put together.  But when we write, we do because we have to make sure our grammar, punctuation and use of vocabulary are accurate.

 

On a very basic level, we can think of our thought groups being broken down into sentences that follow the rules of grammar.  Those sentences are further broken down into single words that each carry their own meaning.  Each word can be broken into parts which we call syllables.  A syllable can be a vowel, vowel+consonant , consonant+vowel or consonant+vowel+consonant.

 

Word parts

In English, some of our words are just one syllable, and some are much longer.  Our words are comprised of a root with additional affixes (prefix or suffix).  These components carry the meaning of the word. The root of a word is its base and usually comes from Greek or Latin.  An affix is added either to the beginning or ending of a word, and it also carriers meaning.  For instance, the word “disapprove” has a prefix “dis” which means “not” and a root “approve”. Here we know the meaning of this word is to not approve or accept something or someone.  In another example, the word “boots” has a suffix “s” which functions as a plural. In this case, we know we are talking about more than one “boot”.

 

Phonemes

Our words are broken into even smaller parts.  These are the sounds in the words, which we call phonemes, the vowels and consonants.  If you google how many phonemes there are in the English language, you will find the number 44, divided into descriptive categories.  Phonemes are the sounds we speak, and they make up the sounds of the language.  They are not consistent across languages, but they are consistent within.

 

Accents

When someone speaks a second language, they will transfer the phonemes of their native language to the way they say the phonemes of the language in which they are speaking.  Sometimes the transfer matches and other times it does not.  When it does not, the result is an accent of varying degrees.

 

Accents are beautiful.  They tell about us, about where we came from and about who we are.  Accents are something we should never be ashamed of.  For some, we may wish to pronounce a new language similar to native speakers, and that is a skill that can be learned through structured teaching, often referred to as accent modification or accent reduction.  It takes a lot of work but many have had success.

 

The core components of our message include syllables and phonemes.  Recognizing the syllables in a word and being able to say the phonemes of the language will positively affect the clarity of what we communicate.  

 

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Talking Tip #13: Knowing about syllables and the phonemes of a language can help with speech clarity.

In this post, I’m going to talk a little bit about the core components of our speech and language. When we talk, what exactly are we saying? Do we talk in big unintelligible glops of words run together? Or is there a structure underlying that? In fact, there is, and knowing this structure just might help a bit in the clarity of our speaking.

We communicate in thought groups, ideas made up of words and sentences. When we speak, we don’t necessarily think about how those thought groups are put together. But when we write, we do because we have to make sure our grammar, punctuation and use of vocabulary are accurate.

On a very basic level, we can think of our thought groups being broken down into sentences that follow the rules of grammar. Those sentences are further broken down into single words that each carry their own meaning. Each word can be broken into parts which we call syllables. A syllable can be a vowel, vowel+consonant , consonant+vowel or consonant+vowel+consonant.

In English, some of our words are just one syllable, and some of our words are much longer. Typically, the syllables carry meaning, especially the ones that are the root of a word or an affix (a prefix or a suffix). The root of a word is its base and usually comes from Greek or Latin. An affix added either to the beginning or ending of a word that also carriers meaning. For instance, the word “disapprove” has a prefix “dis” which means “not” and a root “approve”. Here we know the meaning of this word is to not approve or accept something or someone. In another example, the word “boots” has a suffix “s” which functions as a plural. In this case, we know we are talking about more than one “boot”. There are many more examples of words with affixes that affect the root meaning, but this is just to give you an idea that even these parts of words are important to your message.

Now what about the smaller parts of words? These are the sounds in the words, which we call phonemes, the vowels and consonants. If you google how many phonemes there are in the English language, you will find the number 44, divided into descriptive categories. Phonemes are the sounds we speak, and they make up the sounds of the language. They are not consistent across languages, but they are consistent within.

When someone speaks a second language, they will transfer the phonemes of their native language to the way they say the phonemes of the language in which they are speaking. Sometimes the transfer matches and other times it does not. When it does not, the result is an accent of varying degrees. Accents are beautiful. They tell about us, about where we came from and about who we are. Accents are something we should never be ashamed of. For some, we may wish to pronounce a new language similar to native speakers, and that is a skill that can be learned through structured teaching, often referred to as accent modification or accent reduction. It takes a lot of work but many have had success.

Syllables and phonemes: these are the core components of our language. Who knew there was so much that went into speaking our words and conveying our message.

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