Sylliblication-possible addition to FAQ?

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Can anyone append this list of rules for dividing words into syllables? I hope to construct a set of rules to suggest for inclusion into the new FAQ area that is being proposed.

  1. A single consonant (including ch,ll rr [diagraphs]) is pronounced with the following vowel or diphthong.
    ne-ce-si-to, ciu-dad, plu-ma, a-llí, gue-rra, mu-cha-cho, ca-ba-llo, tra-ba-jar, Es-pa-ña

  2. Combinations of two consonants between vowels or diphthongs are usually separated.
    car-ta, fuen-te, rom-per, cuar-to, es-tá

  3. If the second consonant is l or r, the combination is , as a rule, inseparable.
    a-

3039 views
updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by 0074b507

8 Answers

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That's true: avoiding hyphenation altogether is generally a good idea.

I know that the rules can look daunting, but they are not to be learnt like a poem, but to be used whenever you are not sure about a word, and specially regarding syllables and accents, which is when they are most useful. Particularly, something as hard to digest as diphthongs and hiatuses is quite important if you insist in writing all your accents correctly, and unfortunately, if you don't know at least those rules about diphthongs, you'll always be hesitating about where to put the accent. I'm focusing more on accents than hyphens, and you're probably doing the opposite.

I'm interested in your suggestion about an easier and more pedagogical introduction to this topic. Why don't you give us one? People could benefit if they have two different approaches to the same problem.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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lazarus1907 said:

Neil, first you accuse me of posting complicated rules, and then you ask me broaden the discussion and tell them how much more complicated can it get once you analyse the differences between real pronunciation and conventional syllabification, which is a topic that only a linguists would get into, and also explain synalephas and regional variants on top of everything. Do I make it simpler or more complicated? [...]

What I've given them is what anyone could have found in any decent grammar: the conventions used to separate syllables in order to put accents and hyphenate correctly.

Yeah, I know I want it both ways grin I think what I was suggesting is that you could make the information more digestable for people by preceding it with some kind of two/three sentence summary to capture the spirit of the rules. As I understood, Quentin's point was that he'd tried looking for information, presumably found information similar to the rules you cite, and got a bit stuck wading through them.

I'm not disagreeing that many traditional grammar books will give you a list like the one you mention. I'm just suggesting a way that might make it more accessible. On the question of what publications actually do use these rules for hyphenation, I guess it really varies depending on what sample you're interested in. Most of the Spanish IT and Linguistics publications on my bookcase either don't hyphenate at all or don't use these rules, but I'm fairly sure that other publications will do.

lazarus1907 said:

If anyone takes any exam in a high school, university, or academy, these are the rules they will be expected to follow, whether they agree or not.

They'll be expected to spell conventionally but I doubt they'll ever need to wrote-learn these rules! By the way, for universally acceptable hyphenation in an exam, you just need to remember one rule: "never hyphenate any words".

Students will also generally be assessed on how understandably and naturally they can pronounce Spanish. I was suggesting that as well as dealing with the syllable from the point of view of writing, it might be useful to consider it from the point of view of speech. Many of the rules you mention actually related to actual (oral) syllabification, so it seemed to make sense to tie the two viewpoints together.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Thanks Lasarus, I really need this; my major problem with tildes is knowing how to separate the words into syllables.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by 00769608
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Neil, first you accuse me of posting complicated rules, and then you ask me broaden the discussion and tell them how much more complicated can it get once you analyse the differences between real pronunciation and conventional syllabification, which is a topic that only a linguists would get into, and also explain synalephas and regional variants on top of everything. Do I make it simpler or more complicated? I cannot do both at once, and what you suggest is way more complex than what I've just written, which are practical rules to deal with accents and hyphenation, and not for pronunciation.

What I've given them is what anyone could have found in any decent grammar: the conventions used to separate syllables in order to put accents and hyphenate correctly. The first thing I did, before I gave the rules, was to warn that these separations are only applicable for orthography's sake, and they do not always match real pronunciation. But again, I didn't invent these rules. They are used everywhere in the world by anyone who is careful enough in writing, and by anyone whose work has to do with printed material.

If anyone doesn't agree or doesn't like these rules, just ignore this post, but these rules explain why accents are where they are, and why most books hyphenate the way they do. If anyone takes any exam in a high school, university, or academy, these are the rules they will be expected to follow, whether they agree or not.

I don't know what you think, but I think that I've actually answered Quentin's question.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I think the big complicated list of rules you give covers most cases, but it also fails to "see the wood for the trees". If you want it to be useful for students, I'd really think about trying to summarise it in a couple of generalisations. Instead of (or at least as well as) big lists of combinations of individual letters, you could really do with saying "put as many consonants at the start of a syllable as you can while still making possible Spanish syllables".

From a linguistic point of view, the syllable and syllabification are units of speech organisation, whereas you seem to treat them exclusively as a spelling problem. You might want to think about broadening the discussion a bit: as it stands, the model of syllabification you give doesn't account very well for how Spanish is normally pronounced (e.g. "teatro inglés", according to these rules is syllabified "te.a.tro.in.glés", but in everyday speech would often be "tea.troin.glés"). Similarly, you might want to think about words like "du.éto", "(él) ri.o", "aho.ri.ta", and e.g. that "serían las dos" can become "se.rian.las.dos".

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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This is a good example of what we are looking for for that link, thanks Quentin and Lazarus.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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Muchisimas gracias.

lazarus1907 said:

....

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updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by 0074b507
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These rules are all used to separate syllables and decide how to stress. Notice that sometimes some words are pronounced differently in some regions, but these rules apply nevertheless.

SYLLABLES

DEFINITIONS AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

' A diphthong is a single syllables having two vowels. It must be an unstressed closed vowel (i, u) and an open vowel (a, e, o), or two closed vowels. The possible combinations are ai, ei, oi, au, eu, ou, ia, ie, io, ua, ue, uo, iu and ui. There is always more stress on the open vowel, or if there are two closed ones, the second one. Diphthongs with two closed vowels are often pronounced separately, but orthographically they are considered as one syllable. A h between vowels doesn't make any difference.

' Two open vowels (e.g. ae, oa) are always two syllables (hiatus). The same happens with an open vowel and a stressed closed one (e.g. ía, eí), but here the closed vowel must have an accent. A h between vowels doesn't make any difference.

' A triphthong is a syllable with three vowels, and the middle one must be always a closed one (a, e, o), and the closed ones (i, u) must be unstressed (otherwise, it will be a vowel plus a diphthong). A h between vowels doesn't make any difference.

' The u in the digraph qu or the digraph gu before -e or -i are not regarded as vowels. If you want the u to be pronounced with g and before -e or -i, you must use the diaeresis: güe.

' The letter h is completely ignored when determining syllables, so remove it temporarily before counting - it will be easier. The x is treated exactly as ks.

GENERAL RULES

1) The digraphs ch, ll, rr, qu and gu (before e and i) form a single syllable. However, the rr is split if it is clear from its etymology, as in inter-relacionado.
2) A consonant between vowels belongs to the same syllable as the second vowel, and never the first (e.g. a-ma, o-ro)
3) Certain consonants (b, c, d, f, g, k, p, t) followed by r or l always go together (e.g. tra-ba-jo, a-pli-car). The exceptions to this rule are words with prefixes, such as At-lán-ti-co, sub-li-mi-nal, which are also pronounced separately. Also, the sequences tl and dl are separated or not depending on the country, but they are generally split.
4) Any other two consecutive consonants not mentioned so far, will belong to two different syllables (e.g. ac-ción), unless they are at the beginning of a word (e.g. psi-có-lo-go)
5) When three consonants appear together, the last one will belong to a different syllable, unless it is an r or an s (e.g. ins-truir).

HYPHENATION

1) Never split a syllable at the end of a line.
2) It is advisable never to hyphenate between two consecutive vowels.
3) It is advisable not to to leave a single vowel alone (after hyphenation).
4) Words with prefixes and suffixes are normally separated from the word, if the rest of the word has a meaning of its own (e.g. sub - terráneo).
5) Use common sense to avoid ugly combinations, like cál-culo (2nd part means "ass").
6) Foreign words are divided according to their native rules, and if these are unknown, do not hyphenate.

Notice that the digraph rr becomes r after hyphenation (e.g. arropar: a-ropar)

I hope I didn't miss any.

updated ENE 11, 2009
posted by lazarus1907