abridge (v.) [...] from Old French abregier "abridge, diminish, shorten,"
from Late Latin abbreviare "make short" (see abbreviate).
The sound development from Latin -vi- to French -dg- is paralleled in assuage (from assuavidare) and deluge (from diluvium). [...]

1. Please see the title of this post.

2. This phonological change (is this the right term) did not affect Latin to Spanish, because déluge = diluvio (nm) and the cognate for the English 'assuage' is aliviar. Does anyone know why not?

  • 3
    @sumelic. The received theory is that in Old French "g" before front vowels was an affricate [ʤ], which became [ʒ] in Middle French. The English spelling with "dg" represents the older pronunciation.
    – fdb
    Sep 7, 2015 at 10:35
  • @fdb: well, the English pronunciation as an affricate reflects the Old French pronunciation. The spelling with "dge" is just a variant of soft "g" used after a short vowel, like how "tch" is used in "witch." As LePressentiment mentions, the historical development of the consonant sound is the same as for "assuage" and "deluge" (both also pronounced with [ʤ]), which shows that it doesn't have to do with the "dg" digraph specifically. Sep 7, 2015 at 10:49
  • Hindley, Langley and Levy 2000 (Old French - English Dictionary) give the following forms: OFr abreviier, abregier (verbs) and OFr abreviation, abrejance, abregance (nouns). Very illustrative, aren't they?
    – Alex B.
    Sep 10, 2015 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


Abbreviare to abréger is a very regular sound change, it went something along these lines.

[a.bbre.vi.a:.re] > [a.bre.vja.re] > [a.brɛ.vɟær] > [a.brɛ.vɟʒier] > [a.bre.dʒier] > [a.bre.dʒie] > [a.bre.ʒe]

Basically the key is desyllabification of [i] to [j] and then its fortition and assibilation to [dʒ]. The [v] preceding a consonant is lost regularly. In the Middle Ages the change was in its middle (abrégier with <g> being pronounced [dʒ] as in Italian and contemporary Spanish). Around this time, the word penetrated to English, which did not have the distinction between closed and open [e]/[ɛ] and chose to interpret the former as a short [i]. The [dʒ] sound was then represented by <dg>, this might have been later and under the influence of the similar word bridge.

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