Metathesis in Language 2.0


Language Family


Metathesis of a stem initial consonant and a following vowel occurs with the prefixation of a consonantal person marker. If metathesis results in an /ml/ cluster, these segments are also metathesized.

Type(s) of metathesis

Type Status Optionality Position Location
a. CC/CV Synchronic Obligatory Adjacent Root-initial, root-final

Case types and qualities


When a consonantal person marker (/j-/ ‘2nd sg.’, /k-/ ‘1st pl.’, /b-/ ‘2nd pl.’, etc.) is prefixed to a stem-initial consonant, the stem consonant metathesizes with the following vowel, as shown in (a). (For some stems, the initial consonant deletes. See related processes .)

a. CV metathesis

verb root: with C prefix:  
ba C-ab ‘drink’
leiŋ C-aliŋ ‘wake up’

If metathesis with the following vowel results in an /ml/ cluster, those segments are metathesized, as illustrated in (b). The consonant sequence /lm/ may optionally be assimilated to become [mm].

b. CV and CC metathesis

bul> *C-uml> C-ulm ~ C-umm> ‘find’
bel> *C-aml> C-alm ~ C-amm> ‘speak’


No conditions could be found


Phonotactic Restriction (Jakobi 1990): Metathesis occurs to avoid a non-occurring consonant sequence in initial position and the inadmissable combination of consonants such as /ml/ in medial position.

Perceptual Optimization (Hume 2000): By switching the order of a stem-initial consonant and following vowel, both consonants end up adjacent to a vowel. The initial consonant, which is a person marker, is more salient in this context than preconsonantally.




  • Hume, Elizabeth. 2000. The Role of Speech Perception in Phonology: The Case of Metathesis. Talk given at the Dept. of Linguistics, University of Chicago, 4/19/00.
  • Jakobi, Angelika. 1990. A Fur grammar. Helmut Buske Verlag. Hamburg.
  • Mielke, Jeff & Elizabeth Hume. 2001. Considerations of Word Recognition for Metathesis. In E.Hume, N. Smith & J. van de Weijer, Surface Syllable Structure and Segment Sequencing. Leiden: HIL. 2001.