Syllabic compression (also called syncope) is the loss of a mid-word unstressed syllable when saying a word. It most commonly occurs in high-frequency words when a syllabic consonant such as a syllabic l /əl/, syllabic n /ən/, or an unstressed schwa+r /ɚ/ becomes a regular consonant (a syllabic consonant is a consonant sound that becomes the base sound of a syllable, meaning that there is no vowel sound included in its syllable). When compression occurs, the consonant sound blends with the preceding or following syllable instead of creating its own syllable.
In words where syllabic compression exists, it is almost always optional and is based on speaker-preference. Pronunciation dictionaries will show if the compressed form or non-compressed form is more commonly used for each specific word. In the examples below, the commonly preferred number of syllables for each word is marked with an asterisk /*/ (according to Longman Pronunciation Dictionary).
Wells, John C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow: Longman, 2007. Print.
Click here to join Pronuncian for full online access to all exercises and quizzes for this lesson.