Syllabification or syllabication is the set of rules for dividing words into syllables.
Any single syllable of a Spanish word contains a central vowel, diphthong or triphthong and may start and/or end with a single consonant or a 2-consonant cluster.
- A single consonant letter between vowel letters always starts a new syllable: amar -> "a-mar".
- Two consonant letters between vowel letters are in separate syllables, unless the two consonant letters are bl, br, pl, pr, dr, tr, cl, cr, gl, gr or rr, which always form a consonant cluster that starts a syllable: andar -> an-dar, estar -> es-tar, escuela -> es-cue-la, but hablar -> ha-blar, correr -> co-rrer. (Note: unlike English, the letter s NEVER starts a consonant cluster in Spanish.)
- When three consonant letters appear between vowel letters, then either they divide between the first and second letter and the second and third letters are one of the pairs in #2, or else the second letter is s and they divide between the s and the third letter: constante -> cons-tan-te, hambre -> ham-bre.
- Any sequence of the vowel letters a, e and o divides into separate syllables: leer -> le-er, leo -> le-o, saeta -> sa-e-ta.
- Any combination of the vowel letters i, y or u with a, e or o forms a diphthong and the nucleus of a syllable, and any sequence of i/y/u followed by a/e/o followed by i/y/u forms a triphthong. However, if one of the instances of i/u bears a written accent mark, then it forms a separate syllable rather than participating in the diphthong/triphthong. seis, siete -> sie-te, nuevo -> nue-vo, salió -> sa-lió, habláis -> ha-bláis, sois, buey, but país -> pa-ís, lío -> lí-o, había -> ha-bí-a, habíais -> ha-bí-ais.
- The letter h between two vowels is silent, and it does not block the formation of a diphthong/triphthong. For example, prohíbo requires a written accent on the i in order to indicate that it has the tonic accent and the word is pronounced as 3 syllables, /pro-í-bo/. The infinitive prohibir has the tonic accent on the last syllable and is typically pronounced as 2 syllables, /proi-bír/.