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Learning English: A Look At Word Division

By: Sarah Folega - Updated: 24 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Learning English Word Learn Spelling

The English language isn’t actually a phonetic language. Although we learn to write, spell and read using phonetics, the words in themselves are not. What this basically means is that we do not always sound the word out as we see it. That is why we use word division - to help us learn how to pronounce many words.

Why Should I Learn About Word Division?

Learning word division is a good way for people who are learning English as a second language to understand how to pronounce certain English words. In simple terms, words should really be divided according to the syllables in that word, and also on the basis of the pronunciation. Word division is also a commonly used learning technique for children who are native speakers.

How To Divide English Words

As a rule of thumb, when dividing a word, the first part should be recognisable to the reader before they get to the next part of the word. So, in a sense, the first part of the word should sound like it is a word that could stand alone. The same goes for the last part of the word.

So, if dividing the word ‘coincidence’, it should be divided into two parts – ‘coinci’ and ‘dence’. Splitting the word into three (‘coin’, ‘ci’ and ‘dence’) would make the reader pronounce the word wrong.

When looking at the word you need to divide, the last part of the word should be easily pronounced. If the last part of the word is unpronounceable, then it is divided wrong. So, if dividing the word probable, it should look like this: ‘prob’ and ‘able’. Dividing the word ‘probable’ like this: ‘Probab’ and ‘le’, would make the pronunciation wrong. This is because the stress should be on the ‘prob’ for the word to sound correct.

Tips And Rules For Word Division

Read on to find out more tips in how to, and how not to, divide English words.

  • Names do not need to be divided.
  • Certain words, (usually small, one syllable words) don’t need to be divided. Words such as book and sell should not be divided. This is because dividing the words alters the actual pronunciation.
  • When root words have prefixes or suffixes attached to them to make a different word, they should always be divided at the prefix or suffix. The only exception to this rule is when the word has double letters. So, the word ‘running’ would be divided like this: ‘run’ and ‘ning’.
  • If you notice that the word you need to divide is actually two stand alone words put together, divide the word into the two separate words. So, dividing the word ‘fireworks’ would look like this: ‘fire’ and ‘works’.
  • Some words include two or more letters that make one sound. For example, ‘ch’, ‘sh’ or ‘ea’. When you come across these words, never divide the word by splitting those letters up. It is these letters that form the sound that helps you pronounce the word.
  • When dividing a word, make sure there is at least three letters in the first part of the word division. This isn’t always possible with some words, but, as a general rule, it is usually correct.

Word division is for reading and speaking purposes only. If you have to create a written document, don’t use word division in your writing. You can always have a notebook or folder with written notes containing word division for your own purposes.

If possible, divide a word a few times. You can then pronounce the word as you see it in your division. This will help your understanding of the word, and will help you recognise which pronunciation is correct.

Word division is crucial to learning the correct pronunciation of English words, it also helps spelling and reading skills.

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