Understanding Elision: A Comprehensive Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Elision?
  2. Types of Elision
  3. Elision in English
  4. Elision in Other Languages
  5. How to Identify Elision
  6. Examples of Elision
  7. Why Elision Matters in Speech and Writing
  8. How to Use Elision Effectively

Ever read a book or listened to a speech and noticed certain sounds or syllables missing? Well, you're not alone. This is a common occurrence in language, and it's not a mistake. It's actually a language phenomenon known as elision. Now, let's take a closer look at the definition of elision and its intriguing role in our day-to-day communication.

What is Elision?

At its most basic, the definition of elision is the omission of a sound or syllable when speaking. It can also refer to the omission of a passage in a book, speech, or film. Additionally, elision may denote the process of joining together or merging things, especially abstract ideas. Now that we've established the definition of elision, let's dive into some of its key characteristics:

  • Phonetic Elision: This is perhaps the most common form of elision you'll encounter, where certain sounds or syllables are left out in speech. Think of contractions like "I'm" for "I am" or "let's" for "let us".
  • Grammatical Elision: This type of elision occurs when parts of words or sentences are left out in writing. It's like when you read a quote and notice the ellipsis (...) — this usually indicates that some part of the quote has been left out.
  • Conceptual Elision: On a more abstract level, elision can refer to the process of merging ideas. For instance, the blending of two concepts into one to create a new, combined idea.

While the definition of elision might seem a tad bit technical at first, it's a fascinating part of language that you'll start to notice once you're aware of it. It's like a secret code that our brains automatically decode without us even realizing it. Who knew language could be this sneaky, right?

Types of Elision

Now that we know what elision is, let's meet its different types. Just like a box of assorted chocolates, elision comes in various forms, each with its unique characteristics. Here, we'll discuss three main types: phonetic elision, grammatical elision, and musical elision.

  • Phonetic Elision: This is a biggie. Phonetic elision is all about sounds — specifically sound omission. It's like a magician's trick, where a sound disappears and you hardly notice it. For example, when we say "I'm" instead of "I am", the 'a' sound has vanished!
  • Grammatical Elision: If Phonetic Elision is a magician, then Grammatical Elision is a skilled editor. It chops off parts of words or sentences in writing. The classic example is the apostrophe used in contractions like "don't" or "it's". The missing letters are a result of grammatical elision.
  • Musical Elision: Surprise! Elision isn't just a language thing. It has a role in music too. Musical elision is where the end of one phrase blends into the beginning of the next, creating a seamless flow. It's like listening to your favorite playlist without any pauses between songs.

Remember, these are just some of the many faces of elision. The more you explore, the more types you'll discover. Now, isn't that something to look forward to?

Elision in English

Let's take our elision journey to the English language. Buckle up, because this is where things get interesting. You see, English is a language that loves to make things easier, and elision helps it do just that. It is a tool that English uses to smooth out speech and ensure we're not tripping over our own tongues.

Ever wondered why "camera" often sounds like "camra" when spoken? Or why "chocolate" often becomes "choc-late"? That's elision in action, right there! English speakers often drop sounds that are hard to pronounce or slow down speech. So, instead of pronouncing every single syllable, we take a shortcut. It's the linguistic equivalent of taking a scenic detour on a long drive.

And it's not just about speed. Sometimes, elision is about rhythm too. In poetry and song lyrics, elision helps maintain a steady beat or fit a certain rhyme scheme. Think about it: without elision, would your favorite songs sound as catchy? Probably not!

So, the next time you're listening to a song or having a conversation, keep an ear out for elision. You'll be surprised at just how often it pops up!

Elision in Other Languages

Just when you thought you had the definition of elision all figured out for English, we're going to throw a curveball your way. Elision isn't exclusive to English. It's a worldwide phenomenon, turning up in many other languages, from French to Japanese and beyond. Let's dip our toes into this linguistic pool.

Take French, for instance. Here, elision is a rule, not an option. They have a term for it: "l'élision". In French, certain vowels at the end of words disappear when the next word begins with a vowel or silent "h". For example, 'le' becomes 'l' before a vowel, so 'le orange' becomes 'l'orange'. It's not just a pronunciation thing — it's written that way too.

Moving east, Japanese also uses elision, especially in its casual speech forms. For instance, 'desu' and 'masu' often become 'des' and 'mas', respectively. It's like the language is taking a casual walk in the park, dropping syllables along the way.

So you see, elision is a bit of a globetrotter! It's fascinating to see how different languages use this tool in their own unique ways. Who knew linguistics could be such an adventure, right?

How to Identify Elision

Now that we've seen elision in action across different languages, let's turn our attention to recognizing elision. You might be wondering: how can I spot this linguistic chameleon in the wild? It's not as hard as you may think.

Firstly, listening is key. Pay attention to how words blend together in speech. Do you hear a missing sound that you'd usually expect? If so, you've probably found an instance of elision. For example, 'camera' often sounds like 'camra' in casual speech. Did you notice the missing 'e'? That's elision at work.

Secondly, consider the context. Elision tends to occur more in informal speech and writing. So if you're reading a text message or listening to a casual conversation, you're more likely to encounter elision.

Finally, keep an eye (or ear) out for contractions. They're one of the most common examples of elision in English. Words like "can't", "don't", and "I'm" are all products of elision. Can you spot the missing letters?

With these tips in your linguistic toolbox, you'll soon become an expert at identifying elision. It's like a fun game of hide and seek, only with sounds instead of people!

Examples of Elision

So, what does elision look like in actual language use? Let's take a look at some examples to solidify our understanding.

One of the most common examples of elision in English is in the contraction of words. For instance, "do not" becomes "don't", "it is" becomes "it's", and "will not" becomes "won't". Notice how certain letters are dropped to create these contractions? That's elision in action.

Here's another example: Consider the phrase "next door". In everyday speech, we often say this as "nexdoor", dropping the 't' sound. This is an example of elision, where the pronunciation of a word changes to make it easier to say.

Elision also happens a lot in the world of music. In order to fit the rhythm or melody of a song, singers often drop certain sounds or syllables. Think about the popular song "Can't Stop The Feeling" by Justin Timberlake. When sung, it often sounds more like "Can't Stop Th'Feeling"—and that's elision making the title roll off the tongue a bit easier.

These examples show that elision is all around us. It's in our everyday conversations, our text messages, and even our favorite songs. Keep your ears open, and you'll start noticing it too!

Why Elision Matters in Speech and Writing

Now that we have a clearer definition of elision and have seen some examples, you might be wondering, "Why does elision matter?" Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, elision can make speech and writing more efficient. By dropping certain sounds or syllables, we can communicate our messages faster. If every time we said "it is", we actually said each individual word, our conversations would take a lot longer!

Secondly, elision helps to make language more natural and fluid. It can be a bit robotic to pronounce every single sound in a word or sentence. Elision allows us to smooth out our speech and make it flow better, which is especially important in music and poetry.

Finally, understanding elision can help us better understand and appreciate language. It's an interesting feature of language that gives us insight into how languages change and evolve over time. Plus, it can be a fun challenge to spot instances of elision in the wild!

So, whether you're a language lover, a budding poet, or just someone who enjoys understanding the ins and outs of communication—understanding elision can offer some great insights. Remember, language is not just about rules and grammar, it's also about how those rules are bent, tweaked, and sometimes ignored to create more effective communication.

How to Use Elision Effectively

Now that we've established why elision is important, let's look at how you can use it effectively. Remember, our main goal here is to make our speech and writing more efficient and natural. Here are a few tips:

1. Know Your Audience: The use of elision often depends on who you're talking to. If you're talking to someone who's learning English or another language, for instance, it might be best to minimize your use of elision so that they can understand you better. On the other hand, if you're talking to native speakers, feel free to use elision as naturally as it comes.

2. Understand the Context: Elision isn't appropriate in all situations. In more formal contexts, like giving a presentation or writing an academic paper, it's usually best to avoid elision. But in casual speech or writing, elision can make your language feel more natural and relatable.

3. Practice Makes Perfect: Just like any other aspect of language, the more you practice using elision, the better you'll get at it. Try to notice when others use elision in their speech or writing, and see how you can incorporate it into your own language use.

So, there you have it—the definition of elision and how you can use it effectively. Remember, language is a living, changing thing, and elision is just one small part of that. Happy eliding!

If you enjoyed learning about elision and want to explore more ways to improve your storytelling skills, check out Mirelle Ortega's workshop on 'Storytelling in Illustration.' While this workshop focuses on visual storytelling, the principles can be applied to various forms of storytelling, helping you create richer and more engaging narratives.