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How many syllables are there in the words "castle" and "seven"? I realize that my question looks silly, but I can't understand why the words with the mute E, like "castle", have 2 syllables as this website states. It isn't normally pronounced as /ˈkɑːsəl/, but /ˈkɑːsl/.

"The chin method" doesn't seem to work with the word "seven" since it is pronounced as /ˈsevn/, and your chin touches your hand only one time (but there are 2 vowels in the word, and pronunciation of the second one depends on a person's articulation :).

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    A poet could use "seven seas" as a spondee ("car parks") or as a cretic ("crocodile"). Jul 12, 2017 at 13:05
  • I don't know where you're getting this information – the pronunciations that include the schwa are normal as well.
    – user3395
    Jul 12, 2017 at 17:55

4 Answers 4

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Your question is not silly.

Both words you've mentioned have two syllables or sounds.

Each syllable in English contains a vowel or a letter that gives a vowel sound. Some syllables are very short and quiet ( we call this sound minor stress because we hardly hear it). Often we cant sound a syllable clearly because it has a very short/low (unstressed) sound we call schwa'but it is still a vowel.

The word castle can be divided into two syllables = cast + le

Notice each syllable contains a vowel

The word seven also has two syllables = sev+ en

Notice both syllables have a vowel .

Now look at this word: photography.

This word has four syllables and each syllable can be seen if we break it up to see on this page.

Ex pho to gra phy

This has four syllables but the last doesn't have a vowel. However it does contain a vowel sound (from the y).

The word Canada has three syllables = Ca na da. Each syllable does contain a vowel as seen on paper, but the last sound is hardly pronounced (this is unstressed and doesn't sound like a vowel , so be careful).

One silly way to count out syllables and to find which sounds are major or minor is to pronounce the word as if you are calling your dog back.

Source Teaching American English Pronunciation by Peter Avery/ Susan Ehrlich

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  • Thank you for your reply. In the word "castle" the second syllable is formed by the syllabic consonant /l/, right? Is there only one syllable in words like "muse", "write"?
    – Yulia
    Jul 12, 2017 at 17:16
  • Yulia, Thank you for your comments which are noted.
    – user242899
    Jul 12, 2017 at 18:46
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    @Yulia: Correct, there's only one syllable in "muse" or "write". (Those are a different case. "-Le" is a spelling convention for "el", like how "-re" in "centre" is a spelling of "er".) But you're right, in practice the schwa in "-le" isn't usually fully present, hence some transcriptions show the schwa bracketed or raised, suggesting syllabic l. Anyway, some dictionaries (such as Cambridge & M-W) show a mark between syllables. See dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/castle & merriam-webster.com/dictionary/castle .Both show "castle" as two syllables - and I agree.
    – rjpond
    Sep 22, 2017 at 7:19
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These words have 2 syllables each, but they normally contain one vowel each when pronounced naturally in General American English. English syllables usually have vowels, but we can also have syllables that contain a consonant. Generally these syllables will contain /l,n,ɹ,m/. /ŋ/ is possible but not too common. This explains why you don't feel your jaw move in the words "seven".

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  • This is the most well-informed answer.
    – Void
    Dec 31, 2020 at 18:31
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The letters -le at the end of some English words is pronounced like it should be spelled -el. Example words include castle, hurdle, hustle, chortle, little, etc. The -le is a separate syllable.

Pronouncing it may not make your chin touch your hand but it's still a distinct second sound. Same principle with seven.

Not sure where you're getting this "chin method" from but not all English vowel sounds will cause your jaw to make significant vertical motions. So this method is unreliable.

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Fluent English speakers normally pronounce both words as two syllables.

"Castle" is pronounced cass'el. You say "cass", then you say "el". As LawrenceC says, in most English words that end in "le", it's pronounced "el", as a separate syllable.

"Seven" is pronounced sev'en. I suppose people speaking quickly might drop the second "e" and slur the "v" and the "n" together, but that's not the accepted correct pronunciation.

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