Linguistic Phenomena that Influenced the Formation of Italian Surnames
The wide variety of Italian surnames was also caused by the Italian costume, typical of Middle Ages, of reducing words by omitting syllables.
These reductions could have been done by:
- Apheresis: loss of a sound at the beginning of a word. Ex: Giovanni –> Nanni, Vanni, Zanni
- Apocope: loss or disappearance of one or more phonemes or syllables at the end of some words. Ex: Padovan, Venezian
- Metathesis: change in place of sounds within a word. Ex: Paladino –> Padalino, Rossomanno –> Ursomando
Another alteration found is vezzeggiativo (also called hypocoristic). It was formed by the addition of suffixes and some of the phonetic modifications mentioned. The resulting epithets were generally an abbreviation of the original name, used as a term of endearment.