I am Italian and I need to split English words into syllables for suprasegmental phonetic analysis. I'm noticing that the Longman Online Dictionary http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/ gives different syllabification according to whether a word is a noun or verb/adjective. For example:

study (verb): study (one syllable)
study (noun): stud - y


open (adj): o-pen
open (verb): open (one syllable)

Is there a specific reason for that and hopefully a specific rule to follow?

  • It seems to be arbitrary; i.e. they choose to divide it sometimes, and forget to other times. dictionary.com has a "Syllables" button which divides the word up into spoken syllables.
    – Samthere
    May 6, 2015 at 12:29
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    This is presumably adapted from the print version of the dictionary. In the print version, I would guess that whenever they have several grammatical forms of a word which have the same syllabification, they only give the syllabification for the first entry. You can check that other words with different grammatical forms (that are pronounced the same) only have the syllabification for one of these forms. May 6, 2015 at 12:34
  • @PeterShor's theory seems reasonable, but at any rate, the syllabifications are not different. (Unlike the pair rec-ord noun vs. re-cord verb, where the stress is different.)
    – Greg Lee
    May 6, 2015 at 13:18
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    You shouldn't use the way dictionaries split up written words for phonetic analysis. The rules for division of words in writing aren't based on phonetics but on morphology and other factors. See this Linguistics stack exchange question and this Wikipedia article: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/7159/… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology#Phonotactics
    – herisson
    May 6, 2015 at 13:37
  • Listen to what @sumelic said. When you split up written words for phonetic analysis, using the syllabification intended for hyphenating words when you break lines is a really bad idea. Consider ra-tion, pas-sion, and fash-ion. They rhyme, so for phonetic analysis they should be syllabified in exactly the same way. But because English spelling is so weird, they are hyphenated differently. May 6, 2015 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


If you're going to use a dictionary for syllabification purposes, use a pronunciation dictionary. The recognised best-in-the-field, as it were, is the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by Professor John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at UCL.

You can read about what type of data he uses to determine syllable boundaries in this very interesting piece by him here:

As mentioned by other posters in the comments here, it's not a good idea to use the syllable divisions given in a normal dictionary for the kind of work that the Original Poster has in mind.

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