Metathesis in Language 2.0


Language Family


The sequence /r+h/ is realized as [hr] in most environments.

Type(s) of metathesis

Type Status Optionality Position Location
a. CC Synchronic Obligatory Adjacent Across morpheme boundaries

Case types and qualities


/ti + ur + he:r/ --->tuhre'he is good'
/ti + ir + hisask + :hus/ --->tihrisasku 'he is called'
/ti + ur + ha:k + ca/ --->tuhrakca 'a tree is standing'


There are a number of factors which point to the instability of the sequence /rh/.

- the sequence does not surface anywhere in the language. It is repaired either by metathesis or by deleting the /h/, in the locative.
- /h/ always surfaces in postvocalic position (with two exceptions word-initially)
- /h/ is lost when a consonant precedes it. The observation that /h/ doesn't occur after a consonant may have something to do with the fact that all of the obstruents in the language are voiceless (though unaspirated), i.e. p, t, k, c, s. /h/ is more perceptible before a stop than after it (Mielke 2001) and /h/ doesn't occur adjacent to /s/ at all. The absence of /h/ after the two voiced sounds in the language /w, r/ may have been generalized from the earlier restriction. This is only speculation.

Instability of /h/ and /r/ even independently.

/h/ is unstable, /r/ is unstable. They delete or lenite (in the case of r) in many contexts and have restricted distributions.

- 'h' is lost when it is followed by two consonants
- 'h' is dropped when it is followed by a consonant and word boudnary
- /r/ changes to [h] before any consonant
- stems which have a final sonorant 'r' lose it when it occurs in word-final position
- the only consonant that co-occurs with /r/ is /h/. /r/ then has a very restricted distribution when it comes to consonant clusters. It can surface initially and intervocalically.
- 'r' becomes laryngeal 'h' before a consonant.
- stems which have a final sonorant 'r' lose it when it occurs in word final position

Frequency of preconsonantal /h/ aside from metathesis case.
Preconsonantal /h/ is relatively common, as is [hr] due to phonotactics of language as well as processes such as lenition.
- /t/ is realized as [h] before /r/
- /r/ changes to [h] before any consonant

These factors point to the preference for /h/ in postvocalic position


[Editor's note] An /h/ does not occur after /r/ or any other consonant in the language. Metathesis serves as a repair strategy to avoid an otherwise ill-formed sequence.




  • Parks, Douglas R. 1976. A Grammar of Pawnee. Garland Publishing, Inc.; New York & London.