In linguistics, elision or deletion is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. Sometimes sounds are elided to make a word easier to pronounce.
What does elision mean?
An elision is when a letter or sound is omitted from a word. The elision is quite common in spoken language, due to the simple fact that it speeds up, simplifies, and generally enhances the flow of conversation. Some experts feel technology and social media have impeded these types of interpersonal communication.
Within the English language, the elision is often indicated through the use of the apostrophe: the apostrophe is placed as a substitute for the part of the word that has been subject to the elision.
The elision is usually considered to be a form of slang. As such, it is generally frowned upon to use the elision in academic or other kinds of formal writing.
Learning to use elision properly
Here are some common examples of the elision: don't, can't, won't, shouldn't. The full phrases are of course: do not, cannot, will not, and should not, respectively. The elision, marked by the apostrophe, shortens these phrases into single words; and in the first three cases, it turns a two-syllable phrase into a one-syllable word.
There are other examples thado not use apostrophes to mark the elision. For example, gonna is formed by applying an elision to going to, and wanna is formed by applying an elision to want to. These examples make it clear that the use of the elision often shades into slang: it would not, for example, be appropriate to use the word gonna in a piece of formal writing.
The basic rule for using the elision is thus simply to follow the patterns of spoken language, and to refrain from using the elision in formal writing (or writing that is not meant to mimic the patterns of spoken language).
Slang vs. poetry
The elision has a few different purposes. One of these purposes, for example, is poetic in nature: through the use of the elision, a writer can achieve a balance of syllables or rhymes that may not be possible if he relied on the full phrases instead. For example, "don't" is one syllable long and has an assonance with the word "joke", whereas the phrase "do not" is two syllables long and does not have an assonance with the word "joke". Depending on what the writer is trying to achieve within a poem, the elision could serve a very valuable purpose in this regard.
Moreover, the informality implied by the use of elision can be valuable to a writer as well, insofar this lets the writer establish a more informal tone with the reader. Indeed, part of why much of academic writing can seem rather stuffy at times is because of that form's insistence on maintaining full formality, which includes not using elision. On the other hand, by using elision, the writer can indicate that he wants to engage with the reader in a more conversational way, as if they two of them were just having a drink at the bar.
Finally, it can also be suggested that refraining from the use of elision can sometimes produce the effect of emphasis. For example, if you tell someone "don't go", this sounds like a plea or a suggestion; on the other hand, the phrase "do not go" sounds more like a command. The careful use of elision can thus have a great deal of impact on the tone of speech or writing. When you buy an essay you are likely to find the phrase "do not go" instead of "don't go" because of the formal nature of essays.
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