Syllables and Accents

Syllables can be considered as building blocks of words. They typically consist of a vowel, with optional consonants before and after the vowel.

Syllable Accents

Stress refers to the relative emphasis given to the syllables of a word. The way stresses are placed on words depends both on the word and on the surrounding syllables. This is highly language dependent. Some of the ways syllables can exhibit accent, or stress are as follows:

  • pitch accent (musical accent, tone) - the pitch of a syllable is higher or lower than the surrounding syllables;
  • dynamic accent (loudness) - the volume of a syllable is louder than the surrounding syllables;
  • qualitative accent (full vowels);
  • quantitative accent (longer, more drawn out).

Accents are placed on syllables within the lines of a poem, and the accent pattern of groupings is used to determine the meter (beat) of the poem. Accents can be described in the following terms:

  • long or short;
  • stressed or unstressed;
  • accented or nonaccented.
Number of syllables in wordDescriptive TermExamples
monosyllableone syllable wordsmonosyllabicDogs
disyllabletwo syllable wordsdisyllabic or polysyllabicCanines
-> Ca + nines
trisyllablethree syllable wordstrisyllabic or polysyllabicParakeet
->Par + a + keet
polysyllablemore than three syllablespolysyllabicmesothelioma
-> mes + o + the + li + o + ma

Line length, as defined by the number of syllables

Length NameNumber of Syllables