World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Prothesis (linguistics)

Article Id: WHEBN0002067868
Reproduction Date:

Title: Prothesis (linguistics)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sound change, Epenthesis, Exercises in Style, Prothesis, Cantabrian dialect, Bodovlje
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Prothesis (linguistics)

Sound change and alternation

In linguistics, prothesis (from post-classical Latin[1] based on Ancient Greek πρόθεσις próthesis 'placing before'),[2][3] or less commonly[4] prosthesis (from Ancient Greek πρόσθεσις prósthesis 'addition')[5][6] is the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word without changing the word's meaning or the rest of its structure. A vowel or consonant added by prosthesis is called prothetic or prosthetic.

Prothesis is different from the adding of a prefix, which changes the meaning of a word.

Prothesis is a metaplasm, a change in spelling or pronunciation. The opposite process, the loss of a sound from the beginning of a word, is called apheresis or aphesis.

Word formation

Prothesis may be a way of word formation during borrowing from foreign languages or during derivation from proto-languages.

Romance languages

A well-known example: /s/ + stop clusters (known as s impurum) in Latin gained a preceding /e/ in early Romance languages (Old Spanish, Old French).[7] Hence, Latin status changed to Spanish estado and French état/été (in which the s was lost) "state"/"been", and Latin speciālis changed to Spanish and Old French especial (Modern French and English special).

Turkic languages

Some Turkic languages avoid certain combinations of consonants at the beginning of a word. In Turkish, for instance, Smyrna is called İzmir, and the word station, being borrowed from French becomes Turkish istasyon.

Similarly, in the Bashkir language a prosthetic vowel is added to Russian loanwords where a consonant or a consonant cluster appear at the beginning: арыш "rye" from Russian рожь "id.", өҫтәл "table" from Russian стол "id.", эскәмйә "bench" from Russian скамья "id.", etc. More interestingly, however, Bashkir presents cases of novel prothesis in terms inherited from Common Turkic, i.e. ыласын "falcon" from Old Turkic lačïn "id.", ыcыҡ "dew" from Old Turkic čïq "id.", etc.

Samoyedic languages

In the Samoyedic languages Nenets, Enets and Nganasan, a prothesis of a velar nasal [ŋ] before vowels has occurred historically. For example, the Nenets words /ŋuːʔ/ "road", /ŋin/ "bow" are cognate with Hungarian út, íj, of the same meaning.

In some varieties of Nenets, this rule remains productive: the initial syllable cannot start with a vowel, and vowel-initial loanwords are adapted with prothetic /ŋ/.


Hindi borrowing from English words with initial i; sp-, sk- or sm- clusters: school → iskuul, special → ispesal.


In the Persian language in loan words with initial sp-, st-, sk- or sm- clusters a short vowel e is added in the beginning: spray→esprey, stadium →estadiun, Stalin → Estalin, skate→eskeyt, scan→eskan etc.

Example for pronunciation of initial sm- cluster by Persian language speakers: Persians learning Polish pronounce the word smacznego (bon appétit) as esmacznego.

Slavic languages

During the evolution from the Proto-Slavic language words in various Slavic languages employed pro(s)thetic consonants. Compare: Russian okno ("window") vs. Ukrainian vikno or Belarusian vakno. Another example: Polish wątroba ("liver sausage") from PS ǫtroba (cf. Russian utroba).[8]


The most common form of prothesis in English is adding "a-" before a gerund, such as "a-hunting we will go."


Examples of a pro(s)thetic vowel performing external sandhi are known, e.g., in Italian language. Compare: la scuola ("the school") vs. in iscuola ("at school"). It is therefore conjectured that the origins of the Romance prothesis are phonetical ones, rather than grammatical ones, and initially prothesis was for breaking consonant clusters with the preceding word ending in consonant. This hypothesis is corroborated by the absence of prothesis in Romance dialects that had lost their terminal consonants [9]

Second language

Phonetic rules of the native language may influence pronunciation of a second language, including various metaplasms. For example, prothesis is reported for Crimean Tatars speaking Russian language.[10]

James L. Barker writes:[11]"If an Arab, an East Indian, a Frenchman, Spaniard, or Italian is given the following sentence to read: I want to speak Spanish, he reads it in the following manner: I want to speak (i)/(e)Spanish. In this case there is no 'parasitic' i or e before sp of speak, but there is before sp in Spanish".

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "prothesis". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary prothesis
  3. ^ πρόθεσις. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  4. ^ Trask, Robert Lawrence. 1999. A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology. London: Routledge, p. 296.
  5. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary prosthesis,
  6. ^ πρόσθεσις. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  7. ^ Heinrich Lausberg, "Romanische Sprachwissenschaft" ("Romance Linguistics"), Vol. 1, Berlin, 1956, pp.64-65 (German)
  8. ^ Paul V. Cubberley, "Russian: A Linguistic Introduction" (2002) ISBN 0521796415, p.35,
  9. ^ Richard D. Janda & Brian D. Joseph, "Reconsidering the Canons of Sound-Change: Towards a “Big Bang” Theory", in: "Historical Linguistics 2001. Selected Papers from the 15 International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Melbourne, 13–17 August 2001", Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co. (2003), pp. 205-219
  10. ^ "Crimean Tatar-Russian as a Reflection of Crimean Tatar National Identity",
  11. ^ James L. Barker, "Accessory Vowels (Voyelles prostetiques et autres)", Modern Language Notes, Vol. 40, No. 3 (March 1925), pp. 162-164; p.162,

Further reading

  • Andrei A. Avram, "On the Status of Prothetic Vowels in the Atlantic French Creoles" (pdf file), Antwerp Papers in Linguistics, Issue 107 (2004),
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.