Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Feb 1 14:07:02 UTC 2000

At 11:44 AM +0000 2/1/00, Aaron E. Drews wrote:
>On Tue, 1 Feb 2000, Lynne Murphy wrote:
>}The thing that always troubles me about metathesis is the seeming lack of
>}motivation or rules for it.  Since it goes on both directions, creating and
>}destroying onset consonant clusters, why do people do it?  I mean, I can see
>}why you might do it as an occasional speech error, but how does it become
>}a bona fide language change?
>I'm hazarding a guess that the motivation is the maintenance of /r/ as a
>consonant in the inventory, for this particular case of metathesis.  /r/
>has always been funky in the history of English: from causing some Old
>English sound changes (I think along with /h/~/x/) while other consonants
>did nothing; to the 18th-19th century lenition of post-vocalic /r/, even
>in American English.  Yet, /r/ has never left.
Besides the ancient ones brought up earlier (e.g. bird < brid--another is
horse < hros), a more recent one that has made its way into langue rather
than remaining in parole also involves r-hopping:
COMFORTABLE [K at Mf@rt at b@l]>[K at Mft@rb at l].  (I know schwa = @ may not be right
for everyone here, but the key is the T/R transposition.)


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