Metathesis is late and fake

Madeline Gilbert, Kate Mooney


In this paper, we argue that metathesis, an underattested phonological operation, is best understood as gestural overlap. Based on two case studies (Sevillian Spanish and Uab Meto), we observe that metathesis is (i) implemented in a phonetically gradient way and (ii) invisible to other phonology. We use these observations to propose that phonology is bifurcated into two major strata: early phonology and late phonology. Early phonology uses atomic representations, whereas late phonology uses gestural representations. While early phonology feeds into late phonology, the output of late phonology is not accessible to early phonology. Under this division, metathesis is therefore strictly late phonology because it uses gestures as its core representational unit. As late phonology, metathesis is therefore expected to be invisible to (early) phonological operations in these languages.


Metathesis; Romance; Austronesian

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