In phonology, apocope (; Greek apokoptein meaning cutting off, from apo- meaning away from and koptein meaning to cut) is the loss of one or more sounds from the end of a word, and especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.
Historical sound change
In historical phonetics, the term apocope is often (but not always) limited to the loss of an unstressed vowel.
Loss of an unstressed vowel (with nasal)
- Vulgar Latin pan[em] > Spanish pan (bread)
- Vulgar Latin lup[um] > French loup (wolf)
Loss of other sounds
- Latin illu[d] > Spanish ello
In the Estonian language and Sami languages, apocopes help explain the forms of grammatical cases. For example, a nominative is described as having apocope of the final vowel, whereas the genitive does not. Throughout its history, however, the genitive case marker has also undergone apocope: linn (a city) vs linna (of a city), is derived from linna and linnan, respectively. In the genitive form, final /n/, while being deleted, blocked the loss of /a/. In spoken Finnish, the final vowel is sometimes omitted from case markers.
Some languages have apocopations internalized as mandatory forms. In Spanish and Italian, for example, some adjectives that come before the noun lose the final vowel or syllable when they precede a noun (mainly) in the masculine singular form. In Spanish some adverbs, cardinal and ordinal numbers have apocopations as well.
Grande (big/great) gran gran mujer (feminine) (great woman. However, if the adjective follows the noun, the final syllable remains, but the meaning may also change: mujer grande, meaning large woman)
Bueno (good) buen buen hombre (masculine) (good man; the final vowel remains in hombre bueno, with no accompanying change in meaning)
Tanto (so much) tan (so) tan hermoso (so beautiful)
Uno (one/a/an) un un ni o (a child)
Ciento (hundred) cien Cien a os de soledad (One hundred years of solitude)
Primero (first) primer primer premio (first prize)
Tercero (third) tercer tercer lugar (third place)
Various sorts of informal abbreviations might be classed as apocope:
- English photograph > photo
- French sympathique(s) > sympa meaning nice
- French r actionnaire > r ac meaning reactionary
- English animation > Japanese anime-shon > anime
- English synchronization > sync, synch, syncro, or synchro
- English Alexander > Alex and so on with other diminutives
- Spanish fotograf a > foto meaning photography
- Spanish televisi n > tele meaning television
For a list of similar apocopations in the English language, see List of English apocopations. These processes are also linguistically subsumed under a process called truncation.
- Acronym and initialism
- Apheresis (linguistics)
- Contraction (grammar)
- Syncope (phonetics)
- Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.
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