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Kui

(India; Dravidian, South-Central)

Summary:
A stem-final velar stop metathesizes with a following suffix-initial labial stop.
Examples:
Metathesis is a regular process in Kui. It can be observed in the second conjugation of verbs where the present participle and infinitive is typically formed by the addition of the suffixes /-pi/ and /-pa/, respectively. However, when the stem ends in a velar stop, the suffix-initial labial stop occurs to the left of the stem-final consonant. A similar situation holds in the fourth conjugation, although in this instance the stem-final consonant involved in metathesis is [g], while the prefixal consonant surfaces as [b]. Examples from the second conjugation are shown.

Verb Stem Future Past Present Participle Infinitive Gloss
bluk- bluki blukte blupki blupka 'to break down'
kok- koki kokte kopki kopka 'to sit down'
mlik- mliki mlikte mlipki mlipka 'to turn over'
lek- leki lekte lepki lepka 'to break'


cf.

Verb Stem Future Past Present Participle Infinitive Gloss
gas- gasi gaste gaspi gaspa 'to hang oneself'
mil- mili milte milpi milpa 'to turn over'
Conditions:
Metathesis occurs only across a morpheme boundary.
Motivation:
Perceptual Optimization: Hume (1998, 2001) argues that consonant/consonant metathesis like that observed in Kui occurs in contexts of low salience and serves to enhance the syntagmatic and paradigmatic contrast of the sounds in that context. The low salience of the sequence stems from the observation that the labial and velar stop are acoustically and auditorily similar. The metathesized sequence of sounds is superior to the expected unmetathesized form in terms of the overall perceptual salience of the segments involved. In Kui, this is achieved by reordering segments in order to improve the salience of a neighbouring sound or sounds; that is, placing the velar consonant in prevocalic position and the labial in postvocalic position. Evidence suggesting that the perceptibility of the segments in this order is greater than in the reverse order comes from an experimental study by Winters (1999). In that study, the salience of consonant place in the context VCCV suggests that positioning a dorsal stop consonant in prevocalic position, even when unstressed as is the case in Kui, provides a greater boost in perceptibility than it does for a labial stop consonant (see Hume 2001 for additional discussion).
Related Information:
Stress falls on the monosyllabic root and is manifested as increased prominence in the form of greater syllable length.
Symbols:
No information currently available.

Last Updated: 6/14/2007
References:
eliabeth hume's home page | OSU Linguistics home page