Deletion of rules must be defined in terms of the phonological environment and the type, position and number of morphemes involved in the change.

  1. Consonant deletion

No double consonant. The general principle which governs the simplification of double consonants to single ones, phonetically, is that English does not allow “long” or “double” consonants within a word. Word internal double consonant letters are not pronounced “long”: irrational and eradicate have the same [r], symmetry and cemetery have the same [m].

Affixes which act like words. Most cases of genuine geminate consonants occur at the juncture of two root morphemes: car race, room mate, hip pain. Some affixes, however, namely the affixes –full, -less, -ness, -counter, dis-, inter-, mis-, -un- etc. can show a strong degree of morpheme identity which preserves the phonetic germination in shelfful, soulless, sternness, counterrevolution, dissatisfy, interracial, misstate, unnamed. With respect to germination, these affixes are often treated as if they were independent roots.

a. S-Degemination

Naturalness. The simplification of consonant clusters across morpheme boundaries is a frequent and natural phenomenon. The process of S-Degemination drops one of two [s] sounds at the juncture between the prefix ex- “out of, from, off’ and a morpheme beginning with [s-]:

Orthographically:  <ex- + s>               → <ex->

Phonetically:         [eks + s-]               → [eks-]

Eks + [s]




ex        + spir “breathe”           → expire

            (cf. in + spir → inspire)

ex        + sequ “follow”           → exequies “ funeral rites”

(cf. con + sequ, as in consequence, consecutive)

ex        + sta “stand” + nt        → extant

            (cf. ob + sta, as in obstacle)

ex        + cep “ take, contain” + t        → except

            (cf. in + cep, as in inception)

The last example does not have an orthographic <-s> in the second morpheme, cep, yet the principle of dropping the redundant consonant remains the same.

  • Spelling exception

Words in which S-Degemination occurs in the pronunciation, but does not affect the original spelling of the second morphemes, can be regarded as “ spelling” exception: exsanguine (1661), exscind (1662), excribe (1607), exsert (1665) (also excert), exsiccate (1545), exstipulate (1793), excudation (1646.)

  • Exception to S-Degemination

S-Degemination does not apply when the morpheme ex- mean “a person out a formerly held position or office”. Ex does not participate in S-Degemination when it is a preposition is borrowed phrases, or phrases coined on the Latin model, such as ex officio “by virtue of the office,” ex warehouse “sold directly.” Its status as an independent word is in accord with the geminate consonants in ex silentio “from silence, from absence of evidence, “as well as in the phrases of mixed etymological origin ex ship, ex store.

  • Other affixes in -s

The principle of S-Degemination extends to two other affixes which end in [-s]: dis- and trans-. As with the prefix ex-, when they are combined with s-initial morphemes, the resulting “long” [s] is simplified. More frequently, our conservative spelling still preserves the clue to the composition of such prefixed words, as in:

dis + cern “ separate, decide”             →discern
dis + ser “join + t-at-ion                      →dissertation

The prefix trans– also triggers S-Degermination:

trans + scend (< scand.”climb”)          →transcend

trans + scribe “write”                          →transcribe

b. X- drop

More simplification. Another process which can affect the phonetic    [-ks] sequence of the prefix ex- is X-drop, the complete disappearance of both consonants from the prefix ex- when it means ”out, out of.” Both the dropping of the [s-] in dis- and X-drop are a consequence of what is called a phonotactic constraint. A phonotactic constrain prohibits the arrangement of certain sounds in sequence: a cluster of a voiceless stop followed by a voiceless fricative followed by a voiced consonant is not a possible word-internal sound sequence in English.

Orthographically: ex- + voiced consonant            → <e->

Phonetically: [εks] + voiced consonant                → [ε-] ([І-] or [i] if the prefix is unstressed)

Here is how X-drop works:

[eks-] + [+CONS, +VOI]




ex + bull “boil” + ient → eØbullient              ex + lev “light”+ ate    → eØlevate

ex + duc “lead” + e     → eØduce                   ex + merge “ dip “       → eØmerge

Like S-Degemination, X-drop is blocked when the morpheme ex preserves its status as an independent word, a preposition, as in the Latinate phrases ex gratia, ex nihilo.

c. N-drop

Limitations. The rule of N-drop applies only to the –n of the negative morpheme an- “not, without, less” and to the English indefinite article an (originally meaning “one” in Old English).

[n-] + [+CONS]




An + chromat “color” + ic                  → aØchromatic

An + mor “manner, custom” + al        → aØmoral

Phrasal scope of N-drop. N-drop does not occur only at morpheme edges is derivational processes, that is, within the confines of a single word. The dropping of -n in the indefinite article applies within a whole noun phrase.

  • Pronunciation and boundaries

When the -n of the negative morpheme is deleted, the remaining vowel can be fully unstressed, pronounced like the indefinite article a, [ə] (schwa): aphasia, amorphous etc. When the prefix is stressed, or when we want to emphasize the article a, the vowel remains the unreduced full vowel, [e] (the vowel of late, they): asymmetry, atheist, apolitical, or “Give me a [е] coin, not the contents of your pocket.”


            The prefix an- remains unchanged before a vowel or h-:

an “not” + esth “perceive” et + ic       → anesthetic

an           + alg “pain” + es + ic            → analgesic

an           + hem “blood” + ic              → anemic ( with drop of initial h-)

  • N-drop in other prefixes

N-drop across morpheme boundaries affect also two other prefixes: con-and syn-. The prefix con– loses its [n] if the following morpheme is vowel initial, or if it begins with [h-]:

[n-] + {V……h….}



N-Drop in con-

Con + ag “drive, do” + ulate              → coǾagulate

Con + erc < arc “keep in” + e             → coǾerce

Con + it “go” + ion                             → coǾition

2. Vowel deletion

  1. V-drop in hiatus

Hiatus. The word “hiatus” is a Latin borrowing meaning “a gap, opening.” As a linguistic term, hiatus refers to a kind of phonetic opening which occur when two vowel are directly adjacent across a syllable boundary, with no consonant in between. Words like reality, native, embryo, which contain vowel in hiatus, are fairly rare in English.

  • Exception

V–drop is not an exceptionless change. The application of the rule before <h-> is inconsistent. The V-drop rule covers only the unstressed vowels in disyllabic morpheme.

  1. Syllable syncopation

Syllables are the smallest free-standing pronounceable units. When you say a word as slowly as possible, or when you yell it, you can count the syllables in it. Usually, there is a vowel at the nucleus of every syllable.

Syncopation is defined as “contraction of a word by omission of one or more syllables or letters in the middle” (OED). Like V-drop, syllable syncopation requires that the morpheme (or stem) in which the omission occurs be at least disyllabic.

  1. P- Epenthesis

P-Epenthesis resembles the other allomorphs rules in that it is phonetically motivated and can therefore also be observed in the spoken language. The effect of the change is to ease the transition between the voiced bilabial [m] and the voiceless stop [t]

  • Preservation of <-er> and <-or>

Syllable syncopation affects only unstressed syllable. Syncopation is blocked if the derivation of a new word involves shifting the stress onto the syllable containing [-r-].

3. Expansion rules: vowel or consonant epenthesis

A third group of rules in which recognizable phonetic factors cause predictable allomorphic variations are the expansion or epenthesis rules. Epenthesis (epi + en “in” + thesis “placing”) is the technical term for inserting a sound between two other sounds.

  1. U-Epenthesis

U-Epenthesis affects clusters made up of a velar stop ([g],[k]), or a bilabial stop ([b],[p]), plus the sonorant[l] where it is syllable.

{-gl-, -kl-, -bl-, -pl- } + V

↓     ↓      ↓     ↓

{-gul- kul  bul   pul }



Single + ar                   → singular

Particle + ar                 → particular

Table + ate                  → tabulate

Couple + a                   → copula

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