Possibly related to this request for an antonym for pleonasm except I want to know if there is a name for the grammatical construction or the process where (pseudo) redundant words are removed. The content is still interpretable, because there is a reasonable amount of redundancy in English (and other languages).

Inspired by this question where the phrase used is

"He looks like if John had no hair."

Two of the comments suggest this could be expanded, say "He looks like John would if John had no hair". I'd like to know if there's a generalised name for the process of getting from the expanded version to the reduced version.

This type of construction is common in Singlish (Singaporean English), where if you asked someone if they'd been for lunch, you might get the answer:

"Yes, go come back already."

Which could be expanded to "Yes, we have been for lunch and have already come back", except there's a lot of redundancy there.

Is there a name for reducing a phrase or sentence down to just the bare bones of meaning?

  • Editing? Sep 27 '18 at 16:35
  • Could be @RogerSinasohn. I was thinking that "contraction" is removing redundant(ish) letters and "editing" is removing superfluous content maybe on a sentence or paragraph level. I was hoping there would be a specific word for this on a word level. Eg if a given verb is always used with a specific preposition, then the preposition could be removed without changing the meaning. Or if the subject of the sentence is inherent as in "said to self" rather than "I said to myself".
    – Pam
    Sep 27 '18 at 16:59
  • As this likely isn't unique to Singlish, there may very well be such a word. (I'm not sure what it would be, however.) Sep 27 '18 at 17:16


This is a term from syntax.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary: ELLIPSIS : the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete.

  • Link to TFD definition. Oddly, I think you might be correct. There's nothing in the definition there to say that the missing words must be adjacent to each other or, indeed, replaceable with "...". Thanks!
    – Pam
    Dec 20 '18 at 11:25

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