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What is metathesis?

Metathesis is the phenomenon whereby two sounds that appear in a particular order in one form of a word occur in the reverse order in a related form of the word. For example, in the Austronesian language Leti, the linear ordering of the final consonant and vowel of a word can differ depending on a number of factors. One factor is whether the following word begins with a single consonant or a consonant cluster (or geminate consonant). In the first case, the order of the segments is vowel, consonant, as in ukar lavan 'finger + big = thumb, big toe'. In the second case, you get the order consonant, vowel: ukra ppalu 'finger + bachelor = index finger'. While metathesis is not as common as other processes affecting sounds in language, such as assimilation or deletion, it does, nonetheless, occur as a regular phonological process in synchronic systems in a wide range of languages.

What is this project about?

The goal of this research project is two-fold. The first is to provide a more solid empirical basis for the study of metathesis. To achieve this, we are developing a database of reported cases of metathesis. Portions of this database are already available on this website, particularly cases involving consonant/consonant metathesis. (Note that not all reportedcases of metathesis are actualcases of metathesis, as noted in some of the language listings.) The second aim of this project is to come to a clearer understanding of the nature of metathesis and, with this knowledge, develop a constrained and predictive theory of metathesis. See across for a link to research and publications on metathesis by OSU researchers.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9809732 to Elizabeth Hume. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



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