Metathesis

Randy Leedy Rleedy at bju.edu
Thu Mar 14 22:55:19 EST 2002


What are you doing up so late, Carl?

I guess I didn't make my question quite clear enough. Or else you're
too tired and should go to bed and try again in the morning. :-)

I'm not looking for examples where the development of particular word
forms has included a metathesis somewhere along the way. I'm looking
for words that synchronically exist in two different forms, where the
difference between the two involves a transposition of letters. A
theoretical example, since I used a Hebrew word for "sheep," would be
if PROBATON had a variant spelling PROTABON.

Do you know any such? I'll try to take a look at Smyth tomorrow; at
the moment I've got to crank out some grading and get to bed.

Thanks,

Randy Leedy

>>> "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu> 03/14/02 10:42PM
>>>
At 9:51 PM -0500 3/14/02, Randy Leedy  wrote:
>A colleague of mine (who teaches Hebrew) has gotten curious about
>metathesis as a linguistic phenomenon, and he is interested in
>compiling some examples of words (from a variety of languages) with
>variant forms where the difference is a re-ordering of letters. He
>gave as examples a Hebrew word for sheep (KeBeS / KeSeB) and a
>Caribbean English variant: sandals / slandas.
>
>I can't think of any Greek words that have variant forms involving
>reordering the letters, though, to be honest, it seems like there
>might be a word or two rattling around in the dark recesses of the
>brain where I can't get to it. I wouldn't be surprised to see
>something of this sort in the non-literary papyri; does anyone know
of
>any Greek word(s) that are commonly written with such a variant
>spelling, whether in "street talk" or in more formal language?

The term is used for two common phenomena in Greek phonetic history:

(1) consonantal metathesis: very common is the phenomenon, when
liquid or
nasal verbal (especially) roots become associated with consonantal Y
and a
vowel, as
	BAN + yO/E --> BAINW/BAINEIS/BAINEI, KTL ("y" for consonantal
Yod)
	FAN + yO/E --> FAINW/FAINEIS/FAINEI, KTL
	OFEL + yO/E --> OFEILW/OFEILEIS/OFEILEI, KTL
	FQER + yO/E --> FQEIRW/FQEIREIS/FQEIREI, KTL
   The same phenomenon can also be seen in feminine adjectives where
yA is
added
	to a liquid or nasal adjectival stem:
	MELAN + yA --> MELAINA (fem. of MELAS, MELAINA, MELAN,
"black")

(2) vocalic metathesis: in Greek one sees this especially with
certain
nouns that alternate short-vowel diphthongs with long-vowel +
cognate
consonant before a vocalic or consonantal case-ending:
	BASILEU + S (nom. BASILEUS, dat. pl. BASILEUSI)
	BASILHf + OS/A (gen. BASILHfOS, acc. sg. BASILHfA--"f" =
digamma
After loss of the digamma (still pronounced at the time of the
Homeric
poems), the combinations in Attic BASILHOS and BASILHA suffered shift
of
quantity such that HO became EW and HA became EA (with long alpha).

There are other types of consonantal and vocalic metathesis too; see
Smyth,
##128, 402, 549, 559d, 56f.
-- 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828)
675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com 
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/



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