Morpheme vs. Syllable

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Morpheme and Syllable is that the Morpheme is a basic unit of morphology and Syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds

  • Morpheme

    A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not identical to a word. The main difference between them is that a morpheme sometimes does not stand alone, but a word, by definition, always stands alone. The linguistics field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. When a morpheme stands by itself, it is considered as a root because it has a meaning of its own (such as the morpheme cat). When it depends on another morpheme to express an idea, it is an affix because it has a grammatical function (such as the –s in cats to indicate that it is plural). Every word comprises one or more morphemes.

  • Syllable

    A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often considered the phonological “building blocks” of words. They can influence the rhythm of a language, its prosody, its poetic metre and its stress patterns. Speech can usually be divided up into a whole number of syllables: for example, the word ignite is composed of two syllables: ig and nite.

    Syllabic writing began several hundred years before the first letters. The earliest recorded syllables are on tablets written around 2800 BC in the Sumerian city of Ur. This shift from pictograms to syllables has been called “the most important advance in the history of writing”.A word that consists of a single syllable (like English dog) is called a monosyllable (and is said to be monosyllabic). Similar terms include disyllable (and disyllabic; also bisyllable and bisyllabic) for a word of two syllables; trisyllable (and trisyllabic) for a word of three syllables; and polysyllable (and polysyllabic), which may refer either to a word of more than three syllables or to any word of more than one syllable.

  • Morpheme (noun)

    The smallest linguistic unit within a word that can carry a meaning, such as “un-“, “break”, and “-able” in the word “unbreakable”.

    “The word pigs consists of two morphemes: pig (a particular animal) and s (indication of the plural).”

    “The word werewolves consists of three morphemes: were (~ man), wolf (a particular animal), es (plural)”

    “The word feet consists of two morphemes: foot (a body part) and i-mutation (plural)”

  • Syllable (noun)

    A unit of human speech that is interpreted by the listener as a single sound, although syllables usually consist of one or more vowel sounds, either alone or combined with the sound of one or more consonants; a word consists of one or more syllables.


  • Syllable (noun)

    The written representation of a given pronounced syllable.

  • Syllable (noun)

    A small part of a sentence or discourse; anything concise or short; a particle.

  • Syllable (verb)

    To utter in syllables.

  • Syllable (noun)

    a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.

  • Syllable (noun)

    a character or characters representing a syllable.

  • Syllable (noun)

    the least amount of speech or writing; the least mention of something

    “I’d never have breathed a syllable if he’d kept quiet”

  • Syllable (verb)

    pronounce (a word or phrase) clearly, syllable by syllable.

Oxford Dictionary

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