A syllable is a part of a word, and consists of phones, or phonetic segments. Each syllable consists of at least a "nucleus" (middle) and, optionally, "margins" (edges). Vowel sounds occur in the nucleus of a syllable; mostly, consonant sounds occur in the margins (semi-vowels, which are phonetically identical to a corresponding vowel, may appear in the "margin").

In English, syllables can begin or end with consonants or vowels. Other languages sometimes insist that every syllable end in a vowel or begin with a consonant. On the other hand, no known language insists that syllables begin with a vowel or end in a consonant.

In linguistics jargon, basic syllable structure is often listed using abbreviations, where C represents any consonant and V any vowel, for instance:

  • CV - beginning consonant, vowel
  • CV(C) - beginning consonant, vowel, optional closing consonant

An open syllable is one which ends in a vowel. An example in English would be 'boo'.

A closed syllable is one that ends in a consonant. An example in English would be 'bat'.

See phonetics.

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