|Sound change and alternation|
In phonology, syncope (//; Greek: syn- + koptein "to strike, cut off") is the loss of one or more sounds from the interior of a word, especially the loss of an unstressed vowel. It is found both in synchronic analysis of languages and diachronics. Its opposite, whereby sounds are added, is epenthesis.
For example :
- In some verbs
- Imir (to play) should become *"imirím" (I play). However, the addition of the "-ím" causes syncope and the second to last syllable vowel "i" is lost so Imirim becomes Imrím.
- In some nouns
- Inis (island) should become *inise in the genitive case. However, if one looks at road signs, one finds not *"Baile na hInise" but "Baile na hInse" (the town of the island). Once again there is the loss of the second "i".
It is interesting that if the present root form in Irish is the result of diachronic syncope, there is a resistance to synchronic syncope for inflection.
As a poetic device
Sounds may be removed from the interior of a word as a rhetorical or poetic device, whether for embellishment or for the sake of the meter.
- Latin commo[ve]rat > poetic commorat ("he had moved")
- English hast[e]ning > poetic hast'ning
- English heav[e]n > poetic heav'n
- English over > poetic o'er
- English never > poetic ne'er
In informal speech
Forms such as "didn't" that are written with an apostrophe are, however, generally called contractions:
- English [Au]stra[lia]n > colloquial Strine, pronounced //
- English did n[o]t > di[d]n't, pronounced //
- English I [woul]d [ha]ve > I'd've, pronounced //
- English go[i]n[g] [t]o > colloquial gonna (only when unstressed), pronounced // or, before a vowel, //
Found diachronically as a historical sound change
In historical phonetics, the term "syncope" is often but not always limited to the loss of an unstressed vowel:
Loss of any sound
- Old English hlāfweard > hlāford > Middle English loverd > Modern English lord, pronounced //
- English Worcester, pronounced //
- English Gloucester, pronounced //
- English Leicester, pronounced //
Loss of an unstressed vowel
- Latin cál[i]dum > Italian caldo [ˈkaldo] "hot"
- Latin óc[u]lum > Italian occhio [ˈɔkkjo] "eye"
- Latin trem[u]láre > Italian tremare [treˈmaːre] "to tremble"
- Proto-Norse arm[a]ʀ > Old Norse armr ”arm”
- Proto-Norse bók[i]ʀ > Old Norse bǿkr ”books”
- Proto-Germanic *him[i]nōz > Old Norse himnar ”heavens”
- Apheresis (linguistics)
- Clipping (morphology)
- Clipping (phonetics)
- Epenthesis, the addition of sounds to the interior of a word
- Relaxed pronunciation
- Syncopation in music
- Vowel reduction
- Deletion (phonology)
- Crowley, Terry (1997). An Introduction to Historical Linguistics (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558378-7.