I seems to me the sound at the end is /tl/ or as far as I and most people I know pronounce it. This applies for most other -tal ending words. I know it could be /təl/ but the vowel is not present at all in my pronunciation.

This leads me to ask, is it therefore correct to say environmental is 4 syllables by the definition that a syllable is based on there being a vowel sound for it to be a syllable?

Or do we relax the syllable definition to include the /tl/ sound even though there is no vowel sound present?


1 Answer 1


Many languages, including English, have what is known as syllabic consonants. These are sounds that we usually think of as consonants which can serve as the syllabic nucleus.

Usually these are sonorants:

  • acre
  • little
  • kitten, button
  • rhythm

But sometimes in words representing onomatopoeia they can be sibilants:

  • shhh!
  • psst!
  • bzzz!

Yours is an example of an L forming the syllabic nucleus, just as it does in little.

By the way, the OED has this citation under liquid:

  • 1888 H. Sweet Hist. Eng. Sounds (new ed.) §21
    But those ‘vowellike’ or ‘liquid’ voiced consonants which are unaccompanied by buzz are often also syllabic.
  • That particular OED page (2nd edition) can be found here for free. And the source it cites can be found free here
    – Laurel
    Sep 10, 2018 at 3:58

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