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I was reading an old document put on the web and saw “siam” where I expected “siamo.”

I was about to report a typo when I realized that at least a third of the verbs were that way—“dobbiam” and “abbiam” per esempio.

Was that ever normal long long ago?

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It is still normal, I do it all the time :-) –  randomatlabuser Mar 16 at 18:45
    
You mean 1st person plurals, don't you? –  DaG Mar 16 at 20:49
    
@randomatlabuser, I agree it's still normal, but if you really do it all the time I fear people may think you are a poet... –  Walter Tross Mar 16 at 23:10
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@Walter Tross, probably this is something Italians do all the time without really being aware of it. Consider the polirematica (1, 2) "un bel po' ": three apocopic words for a very frequent phrase used every day by millions of people who are not poets and presumably ignore what an apocope is. –  randomatlabuser Mar 17 at 3:33
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"siam peccatori ma figli tuoi" :-) –  mau Mar 17 at 9:23
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

It is an apocope (in Italian troncamento or apocope), a usual phenomenon in which one or more final letters of a word are omitted, usually for metrical or general euphonic reasons, not specific of a particular grammatical person or number (but with its own empirical rules).

Some troncamenti are now fixed (think about buon giorno rather than *buono giorno, un uomo rather than *uno uomo, dottor Rossi vs.*dottore Rossi). Others are optional, and left to one's sense of the language and the different emphasis to be given to a sentence (ti vuole bene as well as ti vuol bene).

In Italian you can read more about it in Treccani Enciclopedia dell'Italiano's article about troncamento.

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"un uomo" is not an apocope actually, as "un" does exist as article –  Mad Hatter Mar 16 at 21:06
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Thanks for your remark, but the article is actually uno, which «ha al masch. sing. la variante apocopata un» (treccani.it/vocabolario/uno). –  DaG Mar 16 at 21:10
    
Touché, I'm sorry. –  Mad Hatter Mar 16 at 21:12
    
let me expand on an example of yours: ti vuole bene parlare di me vs ti vuol ben parlar di me –  Walter Tross Mar 16 at 23:02
    
Thanks for the interesting info about troncamento. I will have to read that article. Turns out this time, though, it was just a lot of sloppy typing--I found another web page with the same text except no dropped 'o' –  WGroleau Mar 17 at 2:46
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