I learned a new word today – apocope [əˈpɒkəpiː], which is the loss of phonemes from the ends of words, particularly unstressed vowels.
It comes from the Greek word ἀποκόπτω (apokoptein), which means ‘cutting off’ and comes from ἀπό (apo-), ‘away’ and κόπτω (koptein), ‘to cut’.
Apocope is a mechanism which erodes some inflections and other word endings, and creates new ones, when words that were once separate become bound together. It also refers to the process of abbreviating words by dropping their endings.
Here are some examples:
– pānis (Latin for bread) > pan(em) (Vulgar Latin)> pan (Spanish), pane (Italian), pain (French), paõ (Portuguese)
– advertisement > advert > ad
– photographh > photo
– credibility > cred
– barbecue > barbie
– fanatic > fan
The term for phonemes being dropped from the beginning of a word is apheresis (/əˈfɛrɨsɪs/), Here are some examples:
– esquire > squire
– knife (/ˈknaɪf/) > /ˈnaɪf/ – the k was pronounced in Middle English
– telephone > phone
– ysbwriel > sbwriel (Welsh for rubbish, litter)
– ysgrifennu > sgrifennu (Welsh for to write), which has become sgwennu in some dialects of Welsh.
When a word loses internal phonemes, the process is known as syncope (/ˈsɪŋkəpiː/). Examples include:
– forecastle > fo’c’s’le
– never > n’er (poetic)
– over > o’er (poetic)