Has any authority recognized what we could call "half-syllables"? I.e., "Air" being pronounced /ay-r or /eh-r; not quite two whole syllables, but more than one. Or "I" pronounced /ah-e {except in the U.S. South, where it's just /ah.}

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    Maybe this question would be more appropriate for linguistics.SE? – Barmar Oct 29 '15 at 20:58
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    They're (and there and their) diphthongs - two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. – FumbleFingers Oct 29 '15 at 21:00
  • Not that I know of. It would be like a musical rhythm of 5/4 where each measure has a dotted half note followed by a half note. Try humming that! – Greg Lee Oct 29 '15 at 21:46
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    FF has provided a good link. Note that many common dipthongs are heard as single phonemes; "no highway cowboys" has 5 dipthongs in it, but only 5 syllables. – anongoodnurse Oct 29 '15 at 22:11
  • @GregLee en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintuple_meter If you can dance to it, you can hum it. – MetaEd Oct 29 '15 at 22:14

In a way...'sesquisyllabic' describes one-and-a-half syllable words, and they are recognized at least theoretically, by some authorities, in English. See, for example, "SESQUISYLLABLES OF ENGLISH: THE STRUCTURE OF VOWEL-LIQUID SYLLABLES", by Lisa M. Lavoie and Abigail C. Cohn, Cornell Univ.

By their account, the juxtaposition of a liquid consonant and a dipthong can produce a 'half-syllable' pronunciation. The account applies to 'air', but not 'I'.

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    This is the first I've heard of sesquisyllables. Thank you! I was never fully satisfied with the "one syllable, just one, only one" explanation. – Kit Johnson Aug 31 '17 at 8:10

Actually, they're diphthongs, according to the standard definition of a diphthong found here:


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