Definitions

Elision

Elision

[ih-lizh-uhn]
Elision is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase, producing a result that is easier for the speaker to pronounce. Sometimes, sounds may be elided for euphonic effect.

Elision is normally unintentional, but it may be deliberate. The result may be impressionistically described as "slurred" or "muted."

An example of deliberate elision occurs in Latin poetry as a stylistic device. Under certain circumstances, such as one word ending in a vowel and the following word beginning in a vowel, the words may be elided together. Elision was a common device in the works of Catullus. For example, the opening line of Catullus 3 is: Lugete, O Veneres Cupidinesque, but would be read as Lugeto Veneres Cupidinesque.

The elided form of a word or phrase may become a standard alternative for the full form, if used often enough. In English, this is called a contraction, such as can't from cannot. Contraction differs from elision in that contractions are set forms that have morphologized, but elisions are not.

A synonym for elision is syncope, though the latter term is most often associated with the elision of vowels between consonants (e.g., Latin tabula → Spanish tabla). Another form of elision is aphesis, which means elision at the beginning of a word (generally of an unstressed vowel).

Some morphemes take the form of elision. See disfix.

The opposite of elision is epenthesis, whereby sounds are inserted into a word to ease pronunciation.

A special form of elision called ecthlipsis is used in Latin poetry when a word ending in the letter "m" is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, e.g., "...et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem." = "...et mutam nequiquadloquerer cinerem." - Catullus 101.

The omission of a word from a phrase or sentence is not elision but ellipsis or, more accurately, elliptical construction.

Written representation

Even though the effort that it takes to pronounce a word does not hold any influence in writing, a word or phrase may be spelled the same as it is spoken, for example, in poetry or in the script for a theatre play, in order to show the actual speech of a character. It may also be used in an attempt to transcribe non-standard speech. Also, some kinds of elision (as well as other phonological devices) are commonly used in poetry in order to preserve a particular rhythm.

In some languages employing the Latin alphabet, such as English, the omitted letters in a contraction are replaced by an apostrophe. Greek, which uses its own alphabet, marks elision in the same way.

Examples

English

Examples of elision in English ():

comfortable: /ˈkʌɱfɚtəbəl/ → /ˈkʌɱftɚbəl/
fifth: /ˈfɪfθ/ → /ˈfɪθ/
him: /hɪm/ → /ɪm/
laboratory: /læˈbɔrətɔri/ → /ˈlæbrətɔri/ (American English), /ləˈbɔrətri/ (British English)
temperature: /ˈtɛmpərətʃɚ/ → /ˈtɛmpɚtʃɚ/, /ˈtɛmprətʃɚ/
vegetable: /ˈvɛdʒətəbəl/ → /ˈvɛdʒtəbəl/

Japanese

Elision is extremely common in the pronunciation of the Japanese language. In general, a high vowel (/i/ or /u/) that appears in a low-pitched syllable between two voiceless consonants is devoiced, and often deleted outright. However, unlike French or English, Japanese does not often show elision in writing. The process is purely phonetic, and varies considerably depending on the dialect or level of formality. A few examples (slightly exaggerated; apostrophes added to indicate elision):

Matsushita-san wa imasu ka? ("Is Mr. Matsushita in?")
Pronounced: matsush'tasanwa imas'ka

roku, shichi, hachi ("six, seven, eight")
Pronounced: rok', shich', hach'

Shitsurei shimasu ("Excuse me")
Pronounced: sh'ts'reishimas'

Gender roles also influence elision in Japanese. It is considered masculine to elide, especially the final u of the polite verb forms (-masu, desu), whereas women are traditionally encouraged to do the opposite. However, excessive elision is generally viewed as basilectic, and inadequate elision is seen as overly fussy or old-fashioned. Some nonstandard dialects, such as Satsuma-ben, are known for their extensive elision.

Spanish

The change of Latin into the Romance languages included a significant amount of elision, especially syncope (loss of medial vowels). In Spanish, for example, we have:

  • tabla from Latin tabula
  • isla from Latin insula (through *isula)
  • alma from Latin anima (with dissimilation of -nm- to -lm-)
  • hembra from Latin femina (with lenition of f- to h-, dissimilation of -mn- to -mr- and then epenthesis of -mr- to -mbr-)

Tamil

Tamil has a set of rules for elision. They are categorised into classes based on the phoneme where elision occurs.

Class name Phoneme
Kutriyalukaram u
Kutriyalikaram i
Aiykaarakkurukkam ai
Oukaarakkurukkam au
Aaythakkurukkam the special character akh
Makarakkurukkam m

Finnish

The consonant in the partitive case ending -ta elides when surrounded by two short vowels, except when the first vowel is paragoge. Otherwise it stays. For example, katto+takattoa, ranta+tarantaa, but työ+tätyötä (not a short vowel), mies+tamiestä (consonant stem), jousi+tajousta (paragogic i on a consonant stem).

See also

References

  • Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.

External links

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