I don't really know if the term "hyphenate" is the correct here, I use it because of my LaTeX usage. What I mean (and if there is a word for this, please let me know) is: how to break "standardize" into syllables?

I tried searching online, however I come with the forms I have in mind, but nothing for sure:

From Hyphenation 24:


From Poetry Soup:


From How Many Syllables:


How should one go on a proper method to "hyphenate" a word?

  • I would consider the syllables to be "stan-dard-ize" (and Merriam-Webster agrees with me). There may be a US/UK thing, though, as other dictionaries show "stand-ard-ize". – Hot Licks Mar 25 '16 at 22:48
  • It should be noted, though, that hyphenation should be kept to a minimum or avoided entirely where possible. Only when columns are particularly narrow or words exceedingly long should it be required. – Hot Licks Mar 26 '16 at 2:24
  • The question is whether you regard stand as a morpheme in standard. If the hyphenation was based solely on pronunciation, it would be stan-dar-dize. But we also like breaking lines between morphemes, so -dize is wrong, and authorities disagree about stand- or stan-. I would say both are acceptable. – Peter Shor May 14 '16 at 12:43

As you have already found, there seems to be discrepancies from various sources on how to hyphenate "standardize." The main problem is that there is no universal standard on how to hyphenate words, at least in English (can't speak for other languages). Depending on the dictionary or style manual you are using, each could give a different hyphenation variation for the same word.


Syllabification is one of, but not the only thing, that can determine the hyphenation of a word in English. Syllabification is determined by the pronunciation of the word, not the spelling, so the pronunciation used is one factor that can alter the hyphenation of a word.

To determine the syllabification of standardize, I am going to use the American English pronunciation as an example:


The first step is to determine which are the consonant phonemes and which are the vowels and vowel-like phonemes, which in this case resolves to:

s | t | æ | n | d | ə | ɹ | d | ɑɪ | z
C | C | V | C | C | V | C | C | V  | C

A syllable can have three parts, the onset, the nucleus, and the coda. The nucleus is made up of the vowel or vowel-like sounds and is a required part of the syllable. The onset is the consonants that prefix the nucleus, and the coda is the consonants that come after.

There are several phonological rules (sonority sequencing principle, phonotactic constraints) that control how to divide consonants between nuclei, but most of them are irrelevant to this question. What we are interested is the maximum onset principle. Without the maximum onset principle, we can determine the syllabification so far as follows:

s | t | æ | n | d | ə | ɹ | d | ɑɪ | z
C | C | V | C | C | V | C | C | V  | C
1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | ? | 2 | 2 | ? | 3  | 3

In this case, both d's in standardize are intervocalic consonants, which often sound as if they could be part of either the preceding syllable or the subsequent one. The maximum onset principle states that when the syllabification of intervocalic consonants are in question, the consonant should be assigned to the subsequent syllable, in order to give the syllable the maximum onset possible, i.e. if the d in standard was assigned to the first syllable, as in stand-ard, the second syllable would not have an onset at all, so the d should be assigned to the second.

Following these rules, standardize should be hyphenated as stan-dar-dize.


However! English hyphenation does not only take pronunciation into account, it also takes into account etymology. Standardize can be divided into a root word (standard) and suffix (ize), putting the hyphenation divider between standard and ize instead of standar and dize.


Taking both etymology and pronunciation into account, as I believe most would do in the case of determine hyphenation for line breaks, I would personally lean toward standardize being divided as


This takes into account pronunciation for the dividing line between the first two syllables and etymology to divide the second and last.

From a purely pronunciation perspective (and as should be listed in a dictionary), I would break it up as:


Still, as I said, there is nothing governing or enforcing these rules especially in regards to when etymology trumps phonological syllabification, hence the variations you see.

Other Links:

  1. LingPipe: Hyphenation and Syllabification Tutorial
  2. IPA pronunciation of standardize from Cambridge Dictionary Online
  3. Anatomy of a Syllable
  • "...the consonant should be assigned to the preceding syllable. Following these rules, standardize should be hyphenated as stan-dar-dize. " Um, Huh? Preceding means the first syllable not the second. Ya know, on the left? If your want to follow that rule move the d's <- that way. – candied_orange Mar 26 '16 at 4:23
  • Following your rules, and as there is no really a universal standard on how to hyphenate words, let's say for example, the word "Massachusetts", would it be Mas-sa-chu-setts?, or basically it would be what I want it to be? – Hans Mar 26 '16 at 5:02
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    "Every generation hyphenates the way it wants to" - Chief Wiggum – candied_orange Mar 26 '16 at 5:20
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    @Hans For your Massachusetts example, I can find reasoning for Mas-sa-chu-setts, Ma-ssa-chu-setts, and Mass-a-chu-setts being acceptable. The first takes advantage of the two s's in the spelling to assign the s sound to both syllables, which is what the intervocalic consonant sounds like; the second is most correct with the maximum onset principle, but looks wrong when not in the IPA so I would use it for IPA only (ma-sə-chü-səts); and the third uses etymology - the mass- prefix means 'great' in the Algonquian language. – Chatoyancy Mar 26 '16 at 19:57
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    Sorry, the IPA is mæ-sə-tʃuː-sɪts -- copied the pronunciation from Merriam Webster and failed to notice they were using a different phonetic alphabet before I ran out of edit time. Just wanted to correct myself for consistency's sake! – Chatoyancy Mar 26 '16 at 20:06

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