Syllable and Syllable Structure


A syllable is a term used to describe a unit of sound which is composed of a central peak sonority (usually a vowel) and consonants that are clustered around the central peak. Syllable structure is language specific and refers to the permissible sequence of sounds in a syllable (Zsiga, 2013).

The character for a syllable is σ.

The syllable is composed of:

  • An onset (optional)
  • A rhyme (obligatory)
    • Composed of a nucleus (obligatory) and a coda (optional).


  • Skwxwú7mesh
    • A diagram illustrating the syllable structure for the word /kʷə́laš/ ‘to shoot.’ The first syllable is composed of the coda [kw] and the nucleus [ə́], followed by a resonant [l] acting as an onset for the proceeding syllable as well
Dyck (p. 138)
  • Hul’q’umi’num’
    • In this example from Gerdts and Werle (2014), the syllabification of the word /xʷəsqˈeqˈaʔ/ is provided on the the right. Syllable boundaries are indicated by a [.]
Gerdts & Werle (p. 264).