Apocope comes from the Greek ἀποκοπή (apokopḗ) from ἀποκόπτειν (apokóptein) "cutting off", from ἀπο- (apo-) "away from" and κόπτειν (kóptein) "to cut".
Historical sound changeEdit
In historical linguistics, apocope is often the loss of an unstressed vowel.
Loss of an unstressed vowel or vowel and nasalEdit
- Latin mare → Portuguese mar (sea)
- Vulgar Latin panem → Spanish pan (bread)
- Vulgar Latin lupum → French loup (wolf)
- Proto-Germanic *landą → Old, Middle, and Modern English land
- Old English lufu → Modern English love (noun)
- Old English lufian → Modern English love (verb)
- The loss of a final unstressed vowel is a feature of southern dialects of Māori in comparison to standard Māori, for example the term kainga (village) is rendered in southern Māori as kaik. A similar feature is seen in the dialects of Northern Italy.
Loss of other soundsEdit
- Non-rhotic English accents, including British Received Pronunciation, suppress the final r in each syllable (except when it is followed by a vowel). (In most accents, the suppressed r lengthens or modifies the preceding vowel.)
- French pronunciation suppresses the final consonant of most words (but it is normally pronounced as a liaison at the beginning of the following word in the sentence if the latter word begins with a vowel or with an unaspirated 'h').
- Latin illud → Spanish ello
In Estonian and the Sami languages, apocopes explain the forms of grammatical cases. For example, a nominative is described as having apocope of the final vowel, but the genitive does not have it. Throughout its history, however, the genitive case marker has also undergone apocope: Estonian linn ("a city") and linna ("of a city") are derived from linna and linnan respectively, as can still be seen in the corresponding Finnish word.
In the genitive form, the final /n/, while it was being deleted, blocked the loss of /a/. In Colloquial Finnish, the final vowel is sometimes omitted from case markers.
Some languages have apocopations that are internalized as mandatory forms. In Spanish and Italian, for example, some adjectives that come before the noun lose the final vowel or syllable if they precede a noun (mainly) in the masculine singular form. In Spanish, some adverbs and 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")
- Cardinal numbers
- uno ("one, a, an") → un → un niño ("a child")
- ciento ("hundred") → cien → Cien años de soledad ("One hundred years of solitude")
- Ordinal numbers
- primero ("first") → primer → primer premio ("first prize")
- tercero ("third") → tercer → tercer lugar ("third place")
- postrero ("final") → postrer → postrer día ("final day")
- Crowley, Terry. (1997) An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press.