Metathesis in Language 2.0


Language Family
Northeast Caucasian


In the verb morphology, a stop or affricate metathesizes with a fricative.

Metathesis occurs in a few borrowings, with different outcomes in different dialects.

Type(s) of metathesis

Type Status Optionality Position Location
a. CC Synchronic Obligatory Adjacent Between root and suffix
b. CC Diachronic Obligatory Both Root-internal

Case types and qualities


The following description is due to Timur Maisak, and reflects the Nizh dialect.

Besides assimilation [see Related], the clusters ds, ts, tːs also result in stː, and here we have metathesis. This happens in verb forms which include s-initial suffixes, namely the present tense -sa (PRS), the deverbal noun (masdar, MSD) -sun, or some case forms of the infinitive starting in -sV. Metathesis thus blurs the morpheme boundary.

*tad-sun [give-MSD] > tastːun (or tast'un [in the Vartashen dialect described by Harris and Schulze - see Bibliography])

*bart-sun [let-MSD] > barstːun

*botː-sun [cut-MSD] > bostːun


In Nizh Udi, there is also a (dissimilative) change of clusters ss, zs, cs > stː, čs, šs > štː, e.g.:

*eneč-sa [bring.3SG-PRS] > eneštːa 's/he brings'

č is the affricate tʃ, so this arguably reflects a case of metathesis if the affricate is considered to be decomposed into two parts.

The following additional examples are from Schulze's Udi Online Grammar (Vartashen), in section 2.4:

-tʃs- > -ʃtʃ or -stʃ-

'to kiss'
'to carry'

The following examples are from Schulze's Udi Online Grammar, in section 2.4, with notes due to Timur Maisak.

eˤlˤem 'donkey' < *h.elem < *h.emel < h.ima:r (Arabic)

amdar (Udi, Nizh dialect) 'man, abs. sg.' < adam-ar (Arabic, pl.)

cf. adamar (Udi, Vartashen dialect) 'man, abs. sg.' < adam-ar (Arabic, pl.)


Schulze (2002: 48ff) The presence of derivational and inflectional morphology yielding more than bisyllabic words can affect unstressed vowels.

The syncope of unstressed -e- produces CC clusters that are marked for a syllable boundary.


Perceptual Enhancement (Hume 1997, 1998, 2000): Shifting the stop or affricate in metathesis from pre-consonantal position to postvocalic position enhances the perceptibility of the consonant given the presence of the vowel transition .



Metathesis examples in loanwords are not considered in filling in place and manner of metathesized consonants. Metathesis patterns are similar to Faroese and Lithuanian cases. So, I put the motivation based on the account of these cases.


  • Harris, Alice C. 2000. Where in the word is the Udi clitic? Language 76, 3. 593-616.
  • Schulze, Wolfgang. 2001. An online grammar of Udi. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen.
  • Schulze, Wolfgang. 2002. The sound system of Udi. Chapter 2 of unpublished ms.
  • Майсак Т. А. Глагольная парадигма удинского языка (ниджский диалект) // Алексеев М. Е., Майсак Т. А. (отв. ред.) Удинский сборник: грамматика, лексика, история языка. М.: Academia, 2008. С. 96—161.