Today, I received a great question from a reader. After my last post on syllable division, she asked me, “What do you say about the letter i in the following examples: div i sion in ci sion de li cious am bi tion ig ni tion???”
I can understand the confusion, based on my previous posts. According to what I have said so far, those I’s should be long because the syllable is considered open. Now we get into a more advanced rule of division. It has to do with the suffixes on those words.
This division rule has to do with -ci, -si, -ti, -xi being suffixes. They are Latin in origin.
In words containing these suffixes, you look at the letter preceding the suffix to determine if it is a long or short vowel.
A’s, O’s and U’s are always LONG
E’s are sometimes long and sometimes short
I’s are always SHORT
Examples of words for each letter:
• A: com pli ca tion (that I in the syllable before the ca is a schwa), spa cious, gla cial, na tion — A is always LONG
• O: so cial, fer o cious, ex plo sion, com mo tion — O is always Long
• U: con sti tu sion (I in syllable before tu is a schwa), con fu sion, eff u sion — U is always Long
• E: com ple xion (e can go either way, long or short! must test it because there is no rule), com ple tion, pre cious, spe cious
• I: ig ni tion, am bi tious, in ni tial, arti fi cial (I in syllable before fi is a schwa), di vi sion — I is always SHORT
A trick to remembering these is: you can “Fill In” letters that are “strong” (or LONG).
Picture an “a” where the space is filled, O filled in, U can be filled in. “e” can only fill a little bit (in that top part) so it is sometimes long sometimes short, but the “weak” “i” holds nothing, so it is always short.
Here is a work sheet I did in class and an answer key (in case my writing is illegible).