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Prof.

Francisco Zabala - 2016 1

Elision
Elision has been traditionally defined as ‘the omission of sounds in connected speech’ (Crystal, 2008 p.
166). Roach (2001: 61) is of the opinion that:
From the point of view of coarticulation studies, elision is not a separate process from assimilation. It is simply an
extreme result of coarticulation, whereby two sounds are articulated so closely in time to each other that a
sound or sounds between them are completely obscured.

In spite of the great number of cases of elision that occur in English, some authors of pronunciation
manuals agree on what kinds of elision are recommended for the foreign learner to adopt (Cruttenden,
2014; García Lecumberri & Maidment, 2000). Elisions can take place both within the word or at word
boundaries. It is interesting to note that most cases affect syllable-final sounds.

1.1. Elision of .s. & .c.

The alveolar plosives .s. and .c. are extremely common in word final and syllable-final position. They are
readily elided provided they are preceded by a consonant with which they agree in voice and followed by
another consonant. Since .c. is always preceded by a voiced sound, it is safe to state that it can always be
elided if it is sandwiched by consonants. As regards .s., the only two clusters where there is voice
disagreement are .ms. and .ks.. The literature seems to differ in terms of which sounds prevent the elision
of a previous .s. or .c.: such elisions seem to be blocked by a following .g. (Cruttenden, 2014; Ortíz Lira,
2007; Tench, 2011), while they seem to be disfavoured by a following .v. (Mott, 2005; Ortíz Lira, 2007;
Tench, 2011), .i. (Cruttenden, 2014; Ortíz Lira, 2007), .k. and .q. (Tench, 2011).

ELISION OF FINAL .s+ c.


RULE EXAMPLES
Blond man .!akPm'c( !l`m.
Voiced
* '.c.( * World Cup .!v29k'c( !jUo.
consonant Any consonant other than:
Arrived late .?!q`Hu'c( !kdHs.
• .g. (forbidden)
Last summer .!k@9r's( !rUl?.
Voiceless • .v+ i+ k+ q. (infrequent)
* '.s.( * Mashed potatoes .!lzR's( o?!sdHs?Ty.
consonant
Cleft palate .!jkde's( !ozk?s.

Exceptions:
• Negative contractions: the voice disagreement found in the cluster .ms. is overridden, as well as
the constraint on the following sound.
E.g.: Isn’t it? .!Hym's( Hs.
I can’t go. .`H !j@9m's( !f?T.
You shouldn’t allow it. .it !RTcm's( ?!k`T Hs.

• The conjunction “and” almost always drops its final sound, provided it is not followed by silence.
E.g.: Ben and I .!adm ?m `H.
Europe and Asia .!iT?q?o ?m !dHY?.

Prof. Francisco Zabala - 2016 2

1.2. Elision of .g.

The initial consonant in the weak forms of grammatical words he, him, his, himself, her, herself, have, had
and has can be dropped provided they are not initial in the intonation phrase.
Compare:
I have told him what I thought of his wife and her lover.
.`H 'g(?u !s?Tkc 'g(Hl { vPs `H !SN9s ?u 'g(Hy !v`He { ?m 'g(? !kUu?.

Vs.

He can’t flee the country. His father would die if he did.


.gh !j@9ms !ekh9 C? !jUmsqh {{ gHy !e@9C? v?c !c`H He 'g(h cHc.

Perfect modal verbs customarily elide .g. in the weak form of the word have:

PERFECT MODALS
RULE EXAMPLES
Must She must have been late. .Rh !lUrs ?u aHm !kdHs.
Can’t It can’t have happened. .Hs !j@9ms ?u !gzomc.
Should You should have told me. .it RTc ?u !s?Tkc lh.
.?u.
May It may have occurred. .Hs ld'H( ?u ?!j29c.
Might You might have guessed. .it l`Hs ?u !fdrs.
Needn’t You needn’t have come. .it !mh9cms ?u !jUl.
Ought to .st ?u+ sv?u+ stu+ s?u. You ought to have resigned. .it !N9s st ?u qH!y`Hmc.

1.3. Elision of .k.

The dark allophone of .k. shares its back resonance with the back vowel .N9.. It is because of this similarity
that .k. can be elided when it is preceded by this vowel and followed by a consonant.
E.g.:
Altogether .$N9'k(s?!fdC?.
Also .!N9'k(r?T.
Although .!N9'k(C?T.
All the citizens .!N9'k( C? !rHsHymy. Brown (1990, 69)

1.4. Elision of fricatives in clusters

According to Cruttenden (2014), consonantal clusters in syllable final position may be extremely difficult
to articulate. The maximal cluster allowed by the phonotactics of English is VCCCC (e.g. thousandths). The
third consonant is normally lost.
E.g.: Thousandths .!S`Ty?m'c(Sr.
Texts .!sdjr's(r.
Sixths .!rHjr'S(r+ !rHjS'r(.

Wells (2008) mentions the simplification of .,'C(y+ ,'S(r. in moths .!lUm'S(r. and clothes .!jk?T'C(y..
Prof. Francisco Zabala - 2016 3

1.5. Elision of Schwa & Syllabic Consonant Formation

English is varisyllabic, as long words do not always have a fixed number of syllables (Wells, 2009). If a
weak vowel, such as schwa, is completely elided a syllable is lost (e.g.: gardening
.!f@9c-?m-HM = !f@9c-mHM.). However, some consonants are capable of absorbing the syllabic status of
schwa and, therefore, become syllabic themselves gardening .!f@9c-?m-HM = !f@9c-m<-HM.). The latter
process is called SYLLABIC CONSONANT FORMATION (García Lecumberri & Maidment, 2000).

Nasal syllabicity:
The sequence .?m. may become syllabic when it is preceded by a consonant, especially an alveolar.
However, this is not possible if the preceding consonant is a nasal or if the consonant is in turn preceded
by .r.-
E.g.: Listen .!kHr?m = !kHrm<.
Pardon .!o@9c?m = !o@9cm<.
Golden .!f?Tkc?m = !f?Tkcm<.
London .!kUmc?m = )!kUmcm<.
Woman .!vTl?m = )!vTlm<.
Boston .!aPrs?m = )!aPrsm<.

Lateral syllabicity:
The sequence .?k. may become syllabic when it is preceded by an obstruent consonant, especially an
alveolar.
E.g.: Bottle .!aPs?k = !aPsk<.
Medal .!ldc?k = !ldck<.
Uncle .!UMj?k = !UMjk<.
Pencil .!odmr?k = !odmrk<.

Finch & Ortiz-Lira (1982, 80) proposed the following categorization:

ELISION OF SCHWA & SYLLABIC CONSONANT FORMATION


RULE EXAMPLES
.,sm., .,sm.+Cons, .,cm.+Cons, certain, importance,
student, absent, passion,
Syllabic .m. .,rm.+Cons, .,Rm., .,Rm.+Cons, .,Ym.,
patient, vision,
.,qm.+Cons occurrence.
local, peaceful, arrival,
.,jk., .,ek., .,uk., .,rk., .,yk., .,Rk., .,lk.,
Syllabic .k. cancel, nasal, special,
.,qk.
animal, oral.
totally, gracefully,
Syllabic or no-syllabic .k. .,skh., .,ekh., .,Rkh., .,lkh., .,mkh., .,qkh. socially, normally,
externally, orally.
Syllabic or non-syllabic secretary, lottery,
-Cons+.qh.
.q. strawberry
admiralty, optional,
Poly-syllabicity .,'?(q'?(k., .,'?(m'?(k., .,'?(m'?(q'?(k.
ordinarily.