Syllables are typically divided at each variance in distinct speech sound. When parts of a word have speech sounds that are distinct, each of those sounds is a syllable. For example, let’s consider the word caterpillar. Pronounce the word. If you pronounced it correctly, you should have noticed four distinct sounds:

cat•er•pil•lar

There are some general rules for counting the number of syllables in a word.

  1. count the vowels in the word,
  2. subtract any silent vowels
  3. subtract one vowel when two vowel sounds form one speech sound (diphthong)

The number of vowels sounds remaining should be the number of syllables. This is the approach that SyllableCount.com takes with its syllable counting program (see below).

More Syllable Division Rules

  1. Divide between two middle consonants. Example: hap/py
  2. Usually divide before a single middle consonant. Example: o/ver
  3. Divide before a consonant that is immediately before an "-le" word part. Example: bub/ble
  4. Divide off any compound words, prefixes, suffixes and roots. Example: sea/weed

A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus or vowel with optional opening and closing consonants: like the word man.

Examples of syllable nuclei
Word Nucleus # Syllables
cat [kæt] [æ] 1
bed [bɛd] [ɛ] 1
ode [oʊd] [oʊ] 1
beet [bit] [i] 1
bite [baɪt] [aɪ] 1
rain [reɪn] [eɪ] 1
bitten
[ˈbɪt.ən] or [ˈbɪt.n]
[ɪ]
[ə] or [n]
2

Our Syllable Counting Algorithm

Now, we are going to show you excerpts of our syllable counting algorithm. We hope this will also help you see rules of syllable division.

As noted above, start with splitting words at the vowels. This is the approach we take with our syllable couting algorithm.

Regex.Split(word, "[^aeiouy]+");

Once we split the words at the syllables, we subtract dipthongs and silent vowels. Below are a few examples.

Word Parts Subtracted

When you see /b (below) those are word parts that end a word. The other word parts can be found anywhere within the word.

SubtractSyllables.Add("cial");
SubtractSyllables.Add("tia");
SubtractSyllables.Add("cius");
SubtractSyllables.Add("cious");
SubtractSyllables.Add("uiet");
SubtractSyllables.Add("gious");
SubtractSyllables.Add("geous");
SubtractSyllables.Add("priest");
SubtractSyllables.Add("giu");
SubtractSyllables.Add("dge");
SubtractSyllables.Add(@".des\b");
SubtractSyllables.Add(@".mes\b");
SubtractSyllables.Add(@".kes\b");
SubtractSyllables.Add(@".nce\b");
SubtractSyllables.Add(@".rles\b");

We then take into consideration the numerous syllable anomalies in the U.S. English language.

Anomalies

There are anomalies to the standard patterns for dividing syllables. In our syllable counting program, we account for these deviations. For example, we add syllables based on these anomalies. Here are a few:

Word Parts Added

When you see /b (below) those of word parts that end a word. The other word parts can be found anywhere in the word.

AddSyllables.Add("ia");
AddSyllables.Add("riet");
AddSyllables.Add("dien");
AddSyllables.Add("ien");
AddSyllables.Add("iet");
AddSyllables.Add("iu");
AddSyllables.Add("iest");
AddSyllables.Add("io");
AddSyllables.Add("ii");
AddSyllables.Add("ily");
AddSyllables.Add(@".oala\b");
AddSyllables.Add(@".iara\b");
AddSyllables.Add(@".ying\b");
AddSyllables.Add(@".eate\b");
AddSyllables.Add(@".eation\b");

Syllable counting can be difficult because much of it depends on correct pronunciation. That's why it is best to use our syllable counter or syllable counter dictionary.