Haplology (Phonetics)

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A sound change involving the loss of a syllable when it's next to a phonetically identical (or similar) syllable.

Haplology is a type of dissimilation. Perhaps the best-known example is the reduction of Anglaland in Old English to England in Modern English.

The reverse process is known as dittology--the accidental or conventionalized repetition of a syllable. (Dittology also means, more broadly, the double reading or interpretation of any text.)

The counterpart of haplology in writing is haplography; the accidental omission of a letter that should be repeated (such as mispell for misspell).

The term haplology (from the Greek, "simple, single") was coined by American linguist Maurice Bloomfield (American Journal of Philology, 1896).

Examples and Observations

Lyle Campbell: Haplology . . . is the name given to the change in which a repeated sequence of sounds is simplified to a single occurrence. For example, if the word haplology were to undergo haplology (were to be haplologized), it would reduce the sequence lolo to lo, haplology > haplogy. Some real examples are:

  • (1) Some varieties of English reduce library to 'libry' [laibri] and probably to 'probly' [prɔbli].
  • (2) pacifism < pacificism (contrast with mysticism < mysticism, where the repeated sequence is not reduced and does not end up as ​mystism).
  • (3) English humbly was humblely in Chaucer's time, pronounced with three syllables, but has been reduced to two syllables (only one l) in modern standard English.

Yuen Ren Chao: The words library and necessary, especially as spoken in Southern England, are often heard by foreigners as libry and nessary. But when they repeat the words as such, they do not sound right, since there should be a lengthened r and s, respectively, in those words. It shows that foreigners notice the beginning stages of haplology in those words, when there is as yet no complete haplology.

H.L. Mencken: I have often noted that Americans, in speaking of the familiar Worcestershire sauce, commonly pronounce every syllable and enunciate shire distinctly. In England it is always Woostersh'r.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Haplology (Phonetics)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/haplology-phonetics-term-4083268. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Haplology (Phonetics). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/haplology-phonetics-term-4083268 Nordquist, Richard. "Haplology (Phonetics)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/haplology-phonetics-term-4083268 (accessed June 1, 2023).