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Apheresis (linguistics): Wikis


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In phonetics, apheresis (British English: aphaeresis; pronounced /əˈfɛrɨsɪs/ or /əˈfɪərɨsɪs/, from Greek apo away, hairein to take) is the loss of one or more sounds from the beginning of a word, especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.


Apheresis as a historical sound change

In historical phonetics, the term "apheresis" is often but not always limited to the loss of an unstressed vowel. (The Oxford English Dictionary gives this particular kind of apheresis the name aphesis /ˈæfɨsɪs/.)

The loss of any sound

  • English [k]nife pronounced /ˈnaɪf/
  • Swedish [st]rand > Finnish ranta "beach"

The loss of an unstressed vowel

  • Greek episkopos > Vulgar Latin [e]biscopu > English bishop
  • English [a]cute > cute
  • English [E]gyptian > Gyptian > Gypsy
  • English [a]mend > mend
  • English [e]scape + goat > scapegoat
  • Old French evaniss- > English vanish
  • English esquire > squire

Aphaeresis as a poetic device

  • English it is > poetic ’tis

Aphaeresis in informal speech

  • Spanish está > Familiar Spanish [e]tá > ta ("is")

See also


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


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