Metathesis (linguistics)

Metathesis (/məˈtæθəsɪs/ mə-TATH-ə-siss; from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι "I put in a different order"; Latin: transpositio) is the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word or of words in a sentence. Most commonly, it refers to the interchange of two or more contiguous segments or syllables, known as adjacent metathesis[1] or local metathesis:[2]

  • anemone > **anenome (onset consonants of adjacent syllables)
  • cavalry > **calvary (codas of adjacent syllables)

Metathesis may also involve interchanging non-contiguous sounds, known as nonadjacent metathesis, long-distance metathesis,[1] or hyperthesis,[3] as shown in these examples of metathesis sound change from Latin to Spanish:

Many languages have words that show this phenomenon, and some even use it as a regular part of their grammar, such as Hebrew and Fur. The process of metathesis has altered the shape of many familiar words in English as well.

The original form before metathesis may be deduced from older forms of words in the language's lexicon or, if no forms are preserved, from phonological reconstruction. In some cases it is not possible to settle with certainty on the original version.

  1. ^ a b Strazny, Philipp (2005). Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Vol. 2, M–Z. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 679.
  2. ^ van Oostendorp, Marc; et al. (eds.). The Blackwell Companion to Phonology. Vol. III, Phonological Processes. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 1381.
  3. ^ Trask, Robert Lawrence (2000). The Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 211.

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