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In this article we move on to syllables. The concept of syllables becomes especially important while writing metered poetry. A meter of a poetry is the number of lines in each line of the poem. All the lines of a metered poetry generally have the same meter.
We speak little chunks of sound called syllables. In my column 'Poetry Tool-kit' I gave a very technical definition of syllables and left it at that, but judging from the crux of the mails I got I realized that though many people understood what a syllable meant they ran into difficulties while breaking a word into syllables. So this column mainly deals with syllables, their use, recognition, significance and forms or types.
There are two methods I like, of breaking a word into syllables. Here, I am going to discuss both of them in some detail. Before venturing in writing form poetry, it becomes extremely important to understand syllables completely, so I hope you will pay extra attention to this week's column. If you any doubts, don't hesitate to mail them to me or post them on the forum.
Now pick any word. Pick a long word, so that we have a few syllables to play around with. Lets say IndiaNest.
In | dia | nest
Which makes it a three syllable word.
In our word IndiaNest the first vowel island would be I the second would be dia and the third ne ' I | ndia | ne
Again coming to 3 syllables.
The string of consonants at the end is called a consonant island. We don't count consonant islands while counting syllables as they depend on a vowel island to complete their sound.
Note here that if a vowel is silent or unpronounced in a word we don't count as an island. For example, take the word lane. Though technically speaking it has two vowel islands, since the last 'e' is unpronounced it is discarded, so lane remains a single syllable word. Similarly, Jane, tame, fame and so on. This generally occurs only when there is an 'e' at the end.
Lets consider a few more examples
En | joy | ment ' 3 syllables
Method 1 ' eu | pho | ria ' 3 syllables
Try out a few words in whichever method you prefer and check your answers with the dictionary. Though there are online resources available to help you find the number of syllables in a word, it is much easier if you know it yourself. Over time it becomes as intuitive as the spelling of the word itself and your poetic flow will not interrupted by constant verification.
Now let me introduce the concept of open and closed syllable here.
Listen to this word 'do'. Say it aloud. Do you hear a vowel or consonant sound at the end? This is a open syllable because there is no consonant closing the syllable at the end of the word. Think of our vowel islands. Each of them is a open syllable. Of course 'y' is not a vowel here. That was only for the purpose of identifying h syllables.
Now listen to the word 'dot'. It is a closed syllable, as there is a consonant binding the syllable as the end.
Now listen ot the word 'lane' do you hear a vowel sound or a consonant sound? You hear a consonant sound making you think it is a closed syllable but look at the written word, the 'e' at the end says it is an open syllable.
It can be a little confusing in the beginning but with time it gets easy.
Syllables can stressed or unstressed. Also known as strong or weak syllables, I prefer to think of them as harsh and soft syllables.
In a stressed syllable, that syllable is spoken strongly and most often than not louder than the second syllable. Re-TURN, WAG-on, NUM-ber, PIC-ture and so on. Close your ryes and say them aloud, you will be able to judge the strong syllables. Strong syllables are generally closed syllables, though just being a closed syllable doesn't make them strong ones. It all lies in the way it is pronounced.
Now look at the re part of re-TURN. It is a weal syllable, meaning it is unstressed when spoken and spoken with a soft or neutral sound. In a strong syllable the vowel is strong, and in a weak syllable the vowel is weak and neutral, i.e., the schwa sound
Iambic meter poetry is a form of poetry in which the strong and weak syllables alternate making the word sound kind of sing-song when read aloud. May poets like Shelley, Keats and Shakespeare used a lot of iambic meter in their poetry.
The following part taken from Shelley's Ode to The West Wind is an example of an iambic poetry. It is a terza rima written in iambic pentameter
I hope I have made the concept of syllables clear enough. If you have any doubts, post me a comment.
Till next week, have a great creatively fulfilling week.
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