Metathesis (/mɪˈtæθɪsɪs/; from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι "I put in a different order"; Latin: trānspositiō) 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 sounds, known as adjacent metathesis or local metathesis:
Metathesis may also involve interchanging non-contiguous sounds, known as nonadjacent metathesis, long-distance metathesis, or hyperthesis, 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.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus was a historian and scholar in rhetoric living in 1st century BC Greece. He analysed classical texts and applied several revisions to make them sound more eloquent. One of the methods he used was re-writing documents on a mainly grammatical level: changing word and sentence orders would make texts more fluent and 'natural', he suggested. He called this way of re-writing metathesis.
Metathesis is responsible for some common speech errors, such as children acquiring spaghetti as pasketti. The pronunciation /ˈæsk/ for ask, now considered standard, descends from a northern England version of the verb that in most midland and southern texts through the was spelled with x or cs, showing pronunciation as /ˈæks/. Chaucer, Caxton, and the Coverdale Bible use ax; Shakespeare and the King James Bible have ask. The word "ask" derives from Proto-Germanic *aiskōną.
Some other frequent English pronunciations that display metathesis are:
The Old English þyrl "hole" underwent metathesis to þryl. This gave rise to a verb þrylian "pierce", which became Modern English thrill, and formed the compound nosþryl "nose-hole" which became Modern English nostril.
Metathesis is also a common feature of the West Country dialects.
Etymological metathesis occurs in the following French words:
Deliberate metathesis also occurs extensively in the informal French pattern of speech called verlan (itself an example: verlan < l'envers, meaning 'the reverse'). In verlan new words are created from existing words by reversing the order of syllables. Verlanization is applied mostly to two-syllable words and the new words that are created are typically considerably less formal than the originals, or take on a slightly different meaning. The process often involves considerably more changes than simple metathesis of two phonemes but this forms the basis for verlan as a linguistic phenomenon. Some of these words have become part of standard French.
A few well known examples are:
Some Verlan words are metathesized more than once:
Old Spanish showed occasional metathesis when phonemes not conforming to the usual euphonic constraints were joined. This happened, for example, when a clitic pronoun was attached to a verb ending: it is attested that forms like dejadle "leave [plural] him" were often metathesized to dejalde (the phoneme cluster /dl/ does not occur elsewhere in Spanish). The Spanish name for Algeria (Argelia) is likely a metathesis of the Arabic name for the territory (al-Jazāʼir).
Some frequently heard pronunciations in Spanish display metathesis:
In Greek, the present stem often consists of the root with a suffix of y (ι˰ in Greek). If the root ends in the vowel a or o, and the consonant n or r, the y exchanges position with the consonant and is written i:
Some common mispronunciations of Danish words employ metathesis:
But metathesis has also historically changed some words:
Metathesis of liquid consonants is an important historical change during the development of the Slavic languages: a syllable-final liquid metathesized to become syllable-initial, therefore e.g. Polish mleko vs. English milk.
Other roots have diverged within the Slavic family:
In western dialects of Finnish, historical stem-final /h/ has been subject to metathesis (it is lost in standard Finnish). That leads to variant word forms:
Some words have been standardized in the metathetized form,:
A common example of metathesis in Egyptian Arabic is when the order of the word's root consonants has changed.
The following examples of metathesis have been identified in Egyptian Arabic texts, but are not necessarily more common than their etymological spellings:
The following loanwords are also sometimes found with metathesis:
The likely cause for metathesis in the word "hospital" is that the result resembles a common word pattern familiar to Arabic speakers (namely a Form X verbal noun).
Perhaps the clearest example of metathesis in Egyptian Arabic is the modern name of the city of Alexandria: (Al-)Iskandariya (الإسكندرية). In addition to the metathesis of x /ks/ to /sk/, the initial Al of Alexandria has been reanalyzed as the Arabic definite article.
In Hebrew the verb conjugation (binyan) hitpaēl (התפעל) undergoes metathesis if the first consonant of the root is an alveolar or postalveolar fricative. Namely, the pattern hiṯ1a22ē3 (where the numbers signify the root consonants) becomes hi1ta22ē3. Examples:
Amharic has a few minor patterns of metathesis, as shown by Wolf Leslau. For example, 'matches' [kəbrit] is sometimes pronounced as [kərbit], [mogzit] 'nanny' is sometimes pronounced as [mozgit]. The word 'Monday" is [säɲo], which is the base for 'Tuesday' [maksäɲo], which is often metathesized as [maskäɲo]. All of these examples show a pair of consonants reversed so that the stop begins the next syllable.
Small children commonly refer to kusuri 'medicine' as sukuri.
arata- 'new' contrasts with atarashii 'new'.
The following are examples of argot used in the entertainment industry.
In Navajo, verbs have (often multiple) morphemes prefixed onto the verb stem. These prefixes are added to the verb stem in a set order in a prefix positional template. Although prefixes are generally found in a specific position, some prefixes change order by the process of metathesis.
For example, prefix a- (3i object pronoun) usually occurs before di-, as in
However, when a- occurs with the prefixes di- and ni-, the a- metathesizes with di-, leading to an order of di- + a- + ni-, as in
instead of the expected *adinisbąąs (a-di-ni-sh-ł-bąąs) (note also that a- is reduced to -).
In Straits Saanich metathesis is used as a grammatical device to indicate "actual" aspect. The actual aspect is most often translated into English as a be ... -ing progressive. The actual aspect is derived from the "nonactual" verb form by a CV → VC metathetic process (i.e. consonant metathesizes with vowel).
|T̵X̱ÉT 'shove' (nonactual)||→||T̵ÉX̱T 'shoving' (actual)|
|ṮPÉX̱ 'scatter' (nonactual)||→||ṮÉPX̱ 'scattering' (actual)|
|T̸L̵ÉQ 'pinch' (nonactual)||→||T̸ÉL̵Q 'pinching' (actual)|
See Montler (1986), Thompson & Thompson (1969) for more information.
From a comparative study of Dravidian vocabularies, one can observe that the retroflex consonants (ʈ, ɖ, ɳ, ɭ, ɻ) and the liquids of the alveolar series (r, ɾ, l) do not occur initially in common Dravidian etyma, but Telugu has words with these consonants at the initial position. It was shown that the etyma underwent a metathesis in Telugu, when the root word originally consisted of an initial vowel followed by one of the above consonants. When this pattern is followed by a consonantal derivative, metathesis has occurred in the phonemes of the root-syllable with the doubling of the suffix consonant (if it had been single); when a vowel derivative follows, metathesis has occurred in the phonemes of the root syllable attended by a contraction of the vowels of root and (derivative) suffix syllables. These statements and the resulting sequences of vowel contraction may be summed up as follows:
Type 1: V1C1-C² > C1V1-C²C²
Type 2: V1C1-V²- > C1V1-
Like many other natural languages Urdu and Hindi also have metathesis like in this diachronic example:
In ASL, several signs which have a pre-specified initial and final location (such as the signs RESTAURANT, PARENT, TWINS) can have the order of these two locations reversed in contexts which seem to be purely phonological. While not possible with all signs, this does happen with quite a few. For example, the sign DEAF, prototypically made with the '1' handshape making contact first with the cheek and then moving to contact the jaw (as in the sentence FATHER DEAF), can have these locations reversed if the preceding sign, when part of the same constituent, has a final location more proximal to the jaw (as in the sentence MOTHER DEAF). Both forms of the sign DEAF are acceptable to native signers. A proposed prerequisite for metathesis to apply in ASL is that both signs must be within the same region on the body. Constraints on the applications of metathesis in ASL has led to discussions that the phonology breaks down the body into regions distinct from settings.
Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct pronunciation"), or simply the way a particular individual speaks a word or language.
A word can be spoken in different ways by various individuals or groups, depending on many factors, such as: the duration of the cultural exposure of their childhood, the location of their current residence, speech or voice disorders, their ethnic group, their social class, or their education.Quantitative metathesis
Quantitative metathesis (or transfer of quantity) is a specific form of metathesis or transposition (a sound change) involving quantity or vowel length. By this process, two vowels near each other – one long, one short – switch their lengths, so that the long one becomes short, and the short one becomes long.
In theory, the definition includes both
long-short → short-longand
short-long → long-short,but Ancient Greek, which the term was originally created to describe, displays only the former, since the process is part of long-vowel shortening.Scott DeLancey
Scott DeLancey (born 1949) is an American linguist from the University of Oregon. His work focuses on typology and historical linguistics of Tibeto-Burman languages as well as North American indigenous languages such as the Penutian family, particularly the Klamath. His research is known for its diversity of its thematic and theoretical reach.He is well known for having developed the concept of mirative, for promoting the study of comparative Penutian and for being a vocal proponent of the idea that a system of agreement should be reconstructed in proto-Tibeto-BurmanSpeech error
A speech error, commonly referred to as a slip of the tongue (Latin: lapsus linguae, or occasionally self-demonstratingly, lipsus languae) or misspeaking, is a deviation (conscious or unconscious) from the apparently intended form of an utterance. They can be subdivided into spontaneously and inadvertently produced speech errors and intentionally produced word-plays or puns. Another distinction can be drawn between production and comprehension errors. Errors in speech production and perception are also called performance errors. Some examples of speech error include sound exchange or sound anticipation errors. In sound exchange errors the order of two individual morphemes is reversed, while in sound anticipation errors a sound from a later syllable replaces one from an earlier syllable. Slips of the tongue are a normal and common occurrence. One study shows that most people can make up to as much as 22 slips of the tongue per day.Speech errors are common among children, who have yet to refine their speech, and can frequently continue into adulthood. When errors continue past the age of 9 they are referred to as "residual speech errors" or RSEs. They sometimes lead to embarrassment and betrayal of the speaker's regional or ethnic origins. However, it is also common for them to enter the popular culture as a kind of linguistic "flavoring". Speech errors may be used intentionally for humorous effect, as with spoonerisms.
Within the field of psycholinguistics, speech errors fall under the category of language production. Types of speech errors include: exchange errors, perseveration, anticipation, shift, substitution, blends, additions, and deletions. The study of speech errors has contributed to the establishment/refinement of models of speech production since Victoria Fromkin's pioneering work on this topic.