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A reaction involving the exchange of elements or groups as in the general equation AX + BY → AY + BX.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one of the types of combinative sound changes, consisting of the transposition of sounds or syllables within a word.

Metathesis is found:

  1. In historical phonetic changes; for example, Russian lo- replaced Common Slavic ol- at the beginning of a word, as in Old Russian lodiia, “boat.”
  2. In the borrowing of words from other languages; for example, Ket garnitsa from Russian granitsa, “border.”
  3. In morphophonological alternations; for example, Georgian Su&qmetl, “fifteen” (not SquSmetl ), from qu&l, “five.”

Metathesis is especially common in substandard (colloquial or dialectal) speech; for example, Russian substandard perelinka for the standard pelerinka, “pelerine,” “cape,” by analogy with the prefix pere-. Metathesis may take place when sounds occur in close proximity (for example, Russian mramor from Latin marmor, “marble”) or when they occur at a distance (for example, Russian futliar from German Futteral, “case”). A special kind of metathesis is quantitative metathesis, whereby the quantitative characteristics (length) of sounds are exchanged, while their qualitative characteristics are retained (as in the Greek transformation of teos to teos).

Metathesis is used in literature for humorous effects (for example, S. Marshak’s poem “How Absentminded He Is”).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Of these three words, only thorp developed numerous metathetic forms very early in Old English, while the remaining two forms with the original sequence [Vr] show higher frequency only in Middle English.
It is to be noted that while metathetic and non-metathetic forms of through, thresh, thrill, wright, wrought cooccurred, especially in the 12-14th centuries, the remaining three words, i.e.
Such evidence is also missing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where a sample of 9 items contains only 1 instance of metathesis (sporadic), nor is it found in the West Saxon Blickling Homilies (6 items, no metathetic forms).
Metathesised forms in both texts amount to around 30% in Langland (7 cases of permanent and 5 cases of sporadic metathesis in the total of 34 items), while in Robert of Gloucester the proportion is higher (11 metathetic forms, including 5 instances of permanent metathesis) in 24 forms potentially subject to metathesis; cf: 19) (a) He beot so pe Boyes he barst neih heore Ribbes (A.