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First attested in 1764; a regular Anglicisation (see -fication) of a hypothetical etymon of the form *syllabificātiō, *syllabificātiōn-, formed regularly on the base of the Latin syllabificō, itself from syllaba (syllable).



syllabification (usually uncountable, plural syllabifications)

  1. The division of a word into syllables.
    • 1764 September, Tobias George Smollett [ed.], The Critical Review: or, Annals of Literature, volume 18, article 23: “Review of William Johnſton’s A Pronouncing and Spelling Dictionary, &c.”, page 237
      Our author has eſtabliſhed clear practicable rules for articulation, and conſequently for facilitating to foreigners the pronouncing and ſyllabification of the Engliſh language; and that upon principles which are in common to all languages.
    • 1926, Henry Watson Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (first edition, Oxford at the Clarendon Press), page 590, column 2, “syllabize &c.”
      syllabize &c. A verb & a noun are clearly sometimes needed for the notion of dividing words into syllables. The possible pairs seem to be the following (the number after each word means — 1, that it is in fairly common use; 2, that it is on record; 3, that it is not given in OED): — 
       syllabate 3    syllabation 2
       syllabicate 2    syllabication 1
       syllabify 2      syllabification 1
       syllabize 1     syllabization 3
      One first-class verb, two first-class nouns, but neither of those nouns belonging to that verb. It is absurd enough, & any of several ways out would do; that indeed is why none of them is taken. The best thing would be to accept the most recognized verb syllabize, give it the now non-existent noun syllabization, & relegate all the rest to the Superfluous words; but there is no authority both willing & able to issue such decrees.
    • 1999, Ingo Plag, Morphological Productivity: Structural Constraints in English Derivation, § 7.1.2, page 203:
      Syllábify is a back-formation from syllabification, which in turn seems to be coined directly on the basis of Latin syllabificare.


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  • Syllabification” listed on page 357 of volume IX, part II (Su–Th) of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles [1st ed., 1919]
      Syllabification (silæ:bifikēi·ʃən). [n. of action f. med.L. syllabificāre, f. syllaba Syllable: see -fication.] Formation or construction of syllables; the action or method of dividing words into syllables. [¶] 1838 Guest Engl. Rhythms I. 23 The early systems of syllabification. 1843 Poe Premature Burial Wks. 1864 I. 330 What he said was unintelligible; but..the syllabification was distinct. 1862 J. Angus Hand-bk. Engl. Tongue 495 Rules of syllabification. [¶; subentry for “Syllabify”]
  • syllabification” listed in the Oxford English Dictionary [2nd ed., 1989]