Sound change and alternation


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.

In English, elision is often unintentional, giving a result that may in some cases be impressionistically described as "slurred" or "muted." Often, however, the elision is deliberate, as in the use of contractions.

In French, elision is mandatory in certain contexts, as in the clause C'est la vie (elided from *ce est la vie).

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.

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 apheresis, 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 (e.g., isn't for is not). Greek, which uses its own alphabet, marks elision in the same way.



Examples of elision in English:

comfortable: /ˈkʌmfəɹtəbəl/ /ˈkʌmftəɹbəl/ (rhotic English), /ˈkʌmftəbəl/ (non-rhotic English)
fifth: /ˈfɪfθ/ /ˈfɪθ/
him: /hɪm/ /ɪm/
laboratory: /læˈbɔɹətɔɹi/ /ˈlæbɹətɔɹi/ (American English), /ˈləbɒɹətɹi/ (British English)
temperature: /ˈtɛmpəɹətʃəɹ/ /ˈtɛmpəɹtʃəɹ/, /ˈtɛmpɹətʃə/
vegetable: /ˈvɛdʒətəbəl/ /ˈvɛdʒtəbəl/, /ˈvɛtʃtəbəl/


Elision of unstressed vowels is common in the French language, and accepted as part of the standard pronunciation and grammar in numerous cases.


Nouns and adjectives that end with unstressed "el" or "er" have the "e" elided when they are declined or a suffix follows. ex. teuer becomes teure, teuren, etc., and Himmel + -isch becomes himmlisch.

The final "e" of a noun is also elided when another noun or suffix is concatenated onto it. ex. Strafe + Gesetzbuch becomes Strafgesetzbuch.

In both of the above cases the "e" represents a schwa.


Elision is found in the Ulster dialect of Irish, particularly in final position. Iontach, for example, while pronounced ['i:ntəx] in the Conamara dialect, is pronounced ['intə] in Ulster. n is also elided when it begins intervocalic consonant clusters. Anró is pronounced aró; muintir is pronounced muitir.


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
IPA: [matsɯɕtasɑ̃wa imasːka]
roku, shichi, hachi ("six, seven, eight")
Pronounced: rok', shich', hach'
IPA: [ɽokɯ̥ ɕitɕi̥ hatɕi̥]
Shitsurei shimasu ("Excuse me")
Pronounced: sh'ts'reishimas'
IPA: [ɕi̥tsɯ̥ɽeː ɕimasː]

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.


Dropping of sounds in connected speech (as Elision) is very common in this south Indian language (of the state of Kerala). Native Malayalam speakers are very much used to it.


 "entha" becomes "ntha"
 "ippol" becomes "ippo"


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-'

In addition, speakers often employ crasis or elision between two words to avoid a hiatus caused by vowels – the choice of which to use depends upon whether or not the vowels are identical.[citation needed]


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


The consonant in the partitive case ending -ta elides when surrounded by two short vowels except when the first of the two vowels involved is paragoge (added to the stem). 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).


Elision is a major feature of Welsh, found commonly in verb forms, as in the following examples:

  • Ydych chi'n (chi yn) hoffi'r (hoffi yr) coffi? (Do you like the coffee?)
  • Ble mae'r (mae yr) dre? (Where is the town?)
  • Rydw i'n (i yn) darllen. (I am reading)

See also



General references

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

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Elision — Élision L’élision (substantif féminin), du latin elisionem, du supin elisum, du verbe elidere ( ôter ) est un type d’apocope, qui sont toutes deux des modifications phonétiques ressortissant aux métaplasmes. Elle consiste en l’amuïssement de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • élision — [ elizjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1548; lat. elisio ♦ Effacement d un élément vocalique final devant un élément vocalique initial, soit dans le compte des syllabes, soit dans la langue écrite ou orale. Élision d une voyelle devant un h muet. L apostrophe est… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Elision — (lat. ēlīdere herausschlagen, herausstoßen) bezeichnet das Weglassen eines oder mehrerer meist unbetonter Laute. In der Orthographie wird sie gelegentlich durch einen Apostroph gekennzeichnet. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Phonologie 2 Metrik 3 Siehe auch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ELISION — ist ein internationales Ensemble, welches seit 1986 aktiv ist. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Geschichte 2 Diskografie 2.1 Alben 2.2 Kompilation …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Elisión — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Elisión (del latín elisionem, traducción del griego élleipsis) es, en fonética sintáctica, el tipo de metaplasmo que consiste en la pérdida de una vocal o grupo de vocales en el final de una palabra situada ante otra …   Wikipedia Español

  • élision — ÉLISION. sub. f. Suppression d une voyelle finale à la rencontre d une autre voyelle. L élision se marque en François par une apostrophe, comme en ces mots, L âme, qu elle, s il. [b]f♛/b] Dans la prononciation, il se fait beaucoup d élisions qui… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • elisión — sustantivo femenino 1. Área: gramática Eliminación de una vocal cuando está a final de palabra y la siguiente empieza por vocal: La elisión de vocales se produce mucho en el nivel oral …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • elision — ELISION. s. f. Suppression d une voyelle dans un mot à la rencontre d une autre voyelle. L elision se marque en François par une apostrophe, comme en ces mots, l ame, qu elle, s il …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • elision — [ē lizh′ən, ilizh′ən] n. [L elisio, a striking out (in LL, elision) < pp. of elidere: see ELIDE] 1. the omission, assimilation, or slurring over of a vowel, syllable, etc. in pronunciation: often used in poetry to preserve meter, as when a… …   English World dictionary

  • Elisĭon — (v. lat., Ausstoßung), 1) (Gramm.), das Wegwerfen eines meist kurzen Vocals vor einem anderen; dies geschieht im Griechischen u. Lateinischen sowohl in der Parathese, als auch in der Composition, u. in ersterem Falle wird als Zeichen der E. der… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Elision — (lat., griech. Ekthlipsis), in der Grammatik die Ausstoßung eines Vokals, z. B. Glücks (statt Glückes), ros ge (statt rosige), besonders am Ende eines Wortes zur Vermeidung des Hiatus, z. B. dacht er (statt: dachte er). Die E. spielt in der… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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