Term for words with quasi silent letters?
April 27, 2009 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Is there a term for words pronounced with wrongly silent/missing letters?


Porcelain pronounced "porclain"
Memory -> "memry"
Library -> "libry"
posted by sunshineunderground to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by devnull at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Isn't the word "mispronounced"?
posted by standbythree at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

When I do it, I blame mumbling. But the words you mention seem to have a vowel dropped, or elided. For example, libry misses the 'a' sound at the end - librAry. I'm no linguist, but could it be... vowel reduction? ''In fast speech, vowels are reduced due to physical limitations of the articulatory organs, e.g., the tongue cannot move to a prototypical position fast or completely enough to produce a full-quality vowel.'' Just a stab in the dark.
posted by t0astie at 7:28 AM on April 27, 2009

Best answer: The second two are elision, of a sort.

I don't know about the first; are you suggesting that people say "pork-lain" or "porse-lain"? If the former, I have no idea what kind of strange-talking people you run with. If the latter, then it's probably elision, too.
posted by wreckingball at 7:29 AM on April 27, 2009

Internal sandhi features the alteration of sounds within words at morpheme boundaries, as in sympathy (syn- + pathy).

Found it while looking up liaison, a French term for something similar to your question but at word boundaries.
posted by furtive at 7:36 AM on April 27, 2009

Best answer: Elision is the name of the process. A variation on this question was asked recently.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:49 AM on April 27, 2009

I'm confused. What do you mean by "wrongly?" As far as I know "memry" is standard pronounciationof memory.

Also, I'm pretty sure the term you're looking for is syncope.
posted by Kattullus at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

wrongly silent/missing letters
I'd hesitate to say "wrongly" silent. The pronunciation of words is different depending on era and geography. Mispronunciation is the term for words that are actually mispronounced (because the speaker doesn't know the pronunciation, for example). Words that are pronounced in a "non-standard" way due to regional accents, dialects, traditions, etc. are not the same as mispronunciations based on error.
posted by Piscean at 8:28 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

In your first two examples, you are wrongly assuming that it's wrong to pronounce those words without every vowel. Dropping the middle vowel sound is pretty standard for both porcelain and memory. This is kind of like asking why people keep mispronouncing "was" as "wuz" or why people wrongly pronounce "one" with a "w" at the beginning.

Same thing for coupon-cuepon, by the way. If it drives you nuts whenever a standard pronunciation doesn't match some imagined perfect way to say words, you are in for a frustrating life.

Finally, yeah, syncope. (I think).
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:39 AM on April 27, 2009

Likewise, inserting a vowel sound is called epenthesis, such as when Yogi Bear says "pic-a-nic basket" for "picnic basket." I agree with others on your examples as examples of elision. Both epenthesis and elision happen in specific phonological contexts that are predictable within a dialect (in the case of linguistics), and are also used to describe speech problems because these phenomena still occur in predictable phonological contexts in a particular individual.
posted by joan cusack the second at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2009

As long as we're here, what is it called when sounds are actually transposed rather than omitted or added? The example I have in mind is comfortable, pronounced comfterble.
posted by dfan at 10:04 AM on April 27, 2009

Sort of the same with use to and suppose to, I guess, or terrorist used as a plural. Those are usually just spelling errors, since most people pronounce the words the same.

Might other examples be forte and cache, when they're pronounced forté and cachet? I hear those all the time, when folks are trying to sound sophisticated. I don't know if those are mispronunciations or just cases of mixing up similar-sounding words, though.

dfan, add jewlery and relator, and calvary, when used to mean mounted troops.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2009

Previous AskMe discussion of forte. Consensus: either pronunciation is dandy.

Also, I was under the impression that cache and caché were two different words with two different meanings, with cache being a secret stashing spot and caché meaning something like 'special quality.'
posted by Kattullus at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2009

my personal pet peeve is for restaurant.. "restch-rant"
posted by ChickenringNYC at 10:47 AM on April 27, 2009

Also, I was under the impression that cache and caché were two different words with two different meanings, with cache being a secret stashing spot and caché meaning something like 'special quality.'

Nope, that second one is cachet. Caché is a movie (which I personally found ultimately a letdown, though I think there was a long and contentious MeFi thread about it).
posted by languagehat at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like that the pronunciation guide for "memory" on the Merriam-Webster's site makes it seem like it only has two syllables (mem-ree) and yet if you click on the audio pronunciation guide it definitely sounds like three (mem-or-ee, or mem-a-ree). I was a bit confused by this question because I don't know anyone who says those particular words as the OP wrote them (except people who say lie-berry).
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:20 PM on April 27, 2009

dfan, switching the order of phonemes in a word is called metathesis.
posted by Bizurke at 4:56 PM on April 27, 2009

Perversely, ALL the letters in syncope are pronounced: SIN kuh pee
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:51 PM on April 27, 2009

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