Open syllable or closed syllable

Svetl

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I try to help my granddaughter to learn English. English textbook for the fourth grade. The author is Verbitskaya.
Tell me please. The word "These" has open syllable or closed syllable?
 

Skrej

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I would argue that it's neither. Closed syllables usually contain a short vowel sound.

'These' is an example of the Vowel-Consonant-e (aka bossy e, silent e, king e, magic e or any other cutesy name for VCe) where the final 'e' is silent, but makes the preceding vowel long (ie. "say its name").
 

Charlie Bernstein

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I would argue that it's neither. Closed syllables usually contain a short vowel sound. . . .
So "these" and "those" are open but "this" is closed?
 

Svetl

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Unfortunately, I still don't know the answer. I was started to think that Vip member 5jj is right. And the word "These" has closed syllable. But his answer was deleted. Maybe it jast becouse he is not right, and the word "These" has open syllable?
 

Rover_KE

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I'm a native English-speaker in my eighties and have heard about open and closed syllables perhaps once before in all those years. My ignorance of the topic has never prevented me from living a full and fruitful life.

How old is your granddaughter? 'Fourth grade' has different meanings in different countries.

In the UK, schoolchildren are not taught this stuff at all; why do you have to teach it to a Russian child?
 
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Svetl

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My granddaughter is eleven. And this topic is in her English textbook.

I really don't want to teach my granddoughter this topic.

But don't worry we can ask her English teacher in shool. As she will say, so we will write. Even if it wrong.:)
 
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Skrej

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Unfortunately, I still don't know the answer. I was started to think that Vip member 5jj is right. And the word "These" has closed syllable. But his answer was deleted. Maybe it just because he is not right, and the word "These" has open syllable?

As I explained, ‘these’ isn’t an open syllable, but a VCe type syllable. I detailed all six syllable types in post #6 of this thread.

So "these" and "those" are open but "this" is closed?
‘These’ and ‘those’ are both VCe syllables. ‘This’ is a closed syllable.

I'm a native English-speaker in my eighties and have heard about open and closed syllables perhaps once before in all those years.

In the UK, schoolchildren are not taught this stuff at all; why do you have teach it to a Russian child?

It's actually taught in US elementary schools that focus on explicit reading instruction nowadays, although it wasn’t when I was in elementary school.

I actually only found out about syllable types as an adult around ten years ago when I was getting certified as a reading instructor for our ESL program. My state mandated at that time any adult learning centers receiving state funding grants introduce explicit reading instruction if they hadn’t already. It was at that time I had to get certified in reading instruction and first learned about syllable types. While it’s primarily for reading, it does have some carryover into pronunciation of course.

I noticed that in that other thread where I detailed the syllable types, it was in response to another Russian-speaking member, so focus on syllabification might be fairly common in Russian schools teaching English. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but the confusion in the linked post was also dealing with a misunderstanding of open syllables.
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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I'm a native English-speaker in my eighties and have heard about open and closed syllables perhaps once before in all those years. My ignorance of the topic has never prevented me from living a full and fruitful life. . . .
Ditto dat!

I'm 69, and this is the first time I've ever heard of it. I don't get it. Why is these open but this closed? It sounds like some weird grammatical blue law.

It does seem like Russians tend to have esoteric questions. It must have to do with the way English is taught there.

Yes, Svetl. Just go along with the teacher and get the grade.
 

GoesStation

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Why is these open but this closed?
French phonics (if that's the right word) uses this distinction. This and these are a good pair of words to illustrate it. "Open" means pronounced by opening the mouth more widely.
 

Skrej

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I don't get it. Why is these open but this closed? It sounds like some weird grammatical blue law.

It has nothing to do with grammar. It's pronunciation. The syllable types aren't 'rules' per se - they're just a breakdown of different patterns. The complications come more from how we write down the sounds. Once again, 'these' Is NOT an open syllable. It's a third, different type. More on that, below.

From a linguistics perspective, English phonemes (the smallest unit of sound that has a meaningful difference) are either vowels or consonants. English has approximately 44 phonemes (regional variants might have a couple more or less), yet only 26 letters in the alphabet to represent them.

Those approximately 44 phonemes for English break down to about 24 consonant sounds, leaving roughly 20 vowel sounds. The number of vowel sounds varies far more by dialect and variant than the consonants do. The general AmE accent for example has only around 14-16 vowel sounds, while Received Pronunciation (i.e. "standard") BrE) has 20-25. AusE has around 19-20 vowel sounds. Regardless of dialect, there are still only six letters (if you count y) in the alphabet to represent those 20-ish vowel sounds, leaving you with only 20 more to represent those 24-ish consonant sounds.

A syllable is single, unbroken sound part of a word, comprised of any number of phonemes. The number of syllables in a word is unrelated to the number of total phonemes that comprise it. For example, 'chug' is one syllable, but has three phonemes (ch/u/g), represented by four letters. We don't have a special letter for that 'ch' sound, so we represent it with two letters. 'Fight' is also one syllable, with three phonemes (f/igh/t), but we need five letters to write it. Note that vowel sound in it is represented with 'igh', but the same sound /aɪ/ can be represented with just the letter 'I' in 'price'. 'Price' still has only one syllable but four phonemes (p/r/i/ce) and yet five letters. English is not written very phonetically. It's simply a spelling convention that we spell it 'fight' instead of 'fite'. That's an entirely different conversation though.

In English, every syllable must have one vowel sound. Each time you hit a new vowel sound, you get a new syllable. There may or may not be consonants that accompany the vowel; when they do, they may come before, after, or on both sides of the vowel. Research has shown that despite all the hundreds if not thousands of possible vowel and consonant combinations in English, they can all be boiled down into only six syllable patterns, which are:

1. Open - no consonant on end, vowel is long.
Examples: me, the second syllable in hello, and the first syllable in 'item'
2. Closed - ends(but may also begin with) a consonant, and has a short vowel sound.
Example: it, cat, hit, pot (and from above', 'this")
3. Vowel-Consonant-E (aka silent e, sneaky e, bossy e, etc.) - just as the pattern says, it's a vowel followed by a constant ending in the letter 'e' which is silent.
Examples: fine,cake,Pete (and from above, 'these' and 'those')
4. Vowel team - two vowels work together to produce one vowel sound.
Examples: steam, boil
5. R-controlled - the letter r follows a vowel, and colors/controls/influences the vowel sound to where it's neither long nor short.
Examples: star, cord,skirt
6. Consonant-L-E - as the pattern says, the word ends with a consonant followed by the letter L and a final E, which results in a schwa sound rather than a long/short 'e'
Examples:table, bubble, circle

Some make a distinction with the fourth pattern, and separate the diphthongs (two vowels blending into a new sound such as boil, loud) from the digraphs (two vowels making one sound such as meat, float) into a seventh syllable type. Again, that ties back to spelling conventions and the lack of unique letters in our alphabet to represent the total number of sounds in our language.
 

5jj

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French phonics (if that's the right word) uses this distinction. This and these are a good pair of words to illustrate it. "Open" means pronounced by opening the mouth more widely.
Don't confuse close and open vowels with closed and open syllables.

The vowel quality is the same in thee and these. Both are close vowels
The syllable type is different - thee is Open and these is Vowel-Consonant-E
 

Charlie Bernstein

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French phonics (if that's the right word) uses this distinction. This and these are a good pair of words to illustrate it. "Open" means pronounced by opening the mouth more widely.
Aha. Like open- versus closed-hand guitar playing — that is, playing scales seven frets wide (jazz and classical) versus five frets wide (folk, blues, and rock).

Thanks!
 

Skrej

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Don't confuse close and open vowels with closed and open syllables.

That's not only a good point, but possibly why some choose to refer to open and close vowels as low and high vowels, respectively. Either nomenclature is referring to the position of the tongue in relation to the roof of the mouth.

I find phonology and articulatory phonetics rather interesting, and it's still too hot to bother mowing the grass. So, I'll drink beer and expound on vowels instead. I’ll just cover the basics, even though that still makes for a long post.

By definition, a vowel is an unrestricted flow of air through the vocal tract. At no point in the path from lungs to lips is the flow of air ever stopped or even restricted. Once your tongue, lips, or teeth temporarily block, squeeze, or otherwise restrict the flow of air, it becomes a consonant. The place (location the air is acted on) and manner (how the air is altered), and whether or not the vocal cords are vibrating determine how consonants are classified. But back to vowels.

Vowels are classified by height, backness, and roundness.

‘Height’ refers to how high or low the tongue sits in the mouth vertically when making the sound. Open vowels (aka low vowels) have the tongue as far away from the roof as possible – the idea being that the air tract is wide open (i.e. the tongue is ‘low’ in the mouth). Close vowels (aka high vowels) have the tongue as close to the roof as it can be without restricting air flow (i.e. the tongue is ‘high’ in the mouth). Mid vowels of course then have the tongue somewhere between. There are subcategories between the three main points for a total of 7 height descriptors (close, near-close, close mid, mid, open-mid, near-open, and open).

‘Backness’ refers how far to the front or back of the mouth the tongue is. Front vowels have the tongue about as close to the teeth as it can be without touching, while back vowels have the tongue as far back as it goes. Central vowels, unsurprisingly, have the tongue in a more central position.

‘Roundness’ is the extent to which your lips form a round circle when making a vowel. Rounded vowels have the lips pulled up into a round ring, while unrounded vowels have the lips relaxed in their normal (more or less) position.

For example, the long E sound in AmE ‘meet’, is a front close unrounded vowel. The vowel sound in AmE ‘bought’ is a back open rounded vowel.

In theory there are 42 ‘pure’ vowels possible, although linguists have only documented about 33 of them in the world’s languages. This doesn’t count diphthongs, which are combinations of two pure vowels. They’ve got a nomenclature and classification system of their own, but there are diphthongs, triphthongs, and semivowels. All which give you more sequential consonants than you're normally used to in English.

And for the adventurous beach bather, there's the risqué monophthong, which in reality is just another name for a "pure" vowel (with perhaps impure inclinations).
 
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