I understand each syllable contains one vowel sound, but don't understand whether a consonant is with its preceding vowel or its following vowel.

For example, monosyllabic has 5 syllables according to this website. https://www.howmanysyllables.com/syllables/monosyllabic

Syllables of this word are mon-o-syl-lab-ic.

My questions are...
Why mon-o but not mo-no?
Why syl-lab but not sy-llab?
Why lab-ic but not la-bic?

Are there any good ways to find syllables?

  • 1
    One cause of confusion is that syllable-division rules for spelling can be different than the way the word naturally 'splits up' when pronounced. Here sarahsnippets.com/syllable-division-rules is a helpful reference on the rules for written syllable division, which I believe is more detailed and may be more reliable than the howmanysyllables site. Commented Jan 18 at 2:34
  • Yes, that howmanysyllables site seems to be written by someone with no linguistic training. Commented Jan 18 at 4:43
  • 1
    mo-no-sy-la-bic according to the maximal onset principal.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 18 at 7:11

1 Answer 1


Syllables are a strange thing... They are important for poetry and rhyme, and typesetter use them to guide where to put hyphens, but when you try to analyse the sounds of speech spoken naturally, there seems to be no difference between "mon-o" and "mo-no" in how they would sound. Some even suggest that there is really no such thing as a "syllable".

However, a possible analysis is to note that some combinations of consonants seem never to occur at the start of a syllable. For example, in English, no word and no syllable starts "bs". So the propose rule is to divide each syllable into an "onset" consonant cluster, a "nucleus" vowel, and a "coda" consonant cluster. No onset consonant cluster may contain a combination of sounds that are forbidden in English, but as many consonants should be put into the onset as possible. This is called the maximal onset principle.

So in the word "mono", the consonant "n" could be the coda of "mon" or the onset of "no". Applying the maximal onset principle gives "mo-no"

Applying this to "monosyllabic" gives "mo-no-sy-lla-bic"

The "Sarah snippets" page has a different principle: include a consonant in the coda of a short vowel, but the onset of the next syllable for a "long" vowel (and dipthongs are considered "long"). Applying this principle to "mono" gives "mon-o" and "mon-o-syll-ab-ic"

So which one is "right". This is not easy since there isn't a difference in pronunciation between mo-no-sy-lla-bic and mon-o-syll-ab-ic if the words are spoken normally with the syllables run together.

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