Workshop: “Origins of Metathesis in Batsbi,” Alice Harris, Workshop on Language Variation and Change, April 1

The workshop on Language Variation & Change presents
ALICE HARRIS (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Friday, April 01, @3 p.m. (location TBA)
Origins of Metathesis in Batsbi

Blevins and Garrett (1998) investigate in detail the origins of CV/VC metathesis in a number of languages and identify two types of metathesis and a “pseudometathesis”. For them, “pseudometathesis” is a synchronic process that does not originate through the historical process of metathesis. They analyze languages in which “pseudometathesis” originates through epenthesis and deletion (1998) or through reinterpretation and generalization of other processes in the language (Garrett and Blevins 2009). I argue here that metathesis in Batsbi originates as a result of grammaticalization, together with regular phonological processes. When a function word, such as an auxiliary, grammaticalizes as an affix on a base, affixes trapped between the base and new affix are often lost (Harris and Faarlund 2006). However, in Batsbi some trapped affixes were not immediately lost, and I argue that this is the source of the variable position of the present tense marker, and that its variable position was reanalyzed as metathesis. I argue further that the reanalyzed process is true metathesis synchronically, inasmuch as it spreads beyond the environment in which it originally occurred.

Alice Harris (Linguistics, UMass Amherst) will be on campus this Friday, April 1 and available for ~30-minute meetings in the morning and early afternoon. Her research centers on cross-linguistic perspectives on the nature of the word, the role of the paradigm, and diachronic morphology, as well as on Georgian and languages of the Caucasus (mainly morphology and syntax).

If you are interested in meeting with her, please contact Carissa Abrego-Collier ( (Visiting prospective students are also welcome to meet with Alice.)

This talk is part of a year-long workshop on Language Variation and Change, an interdisciplinary forum for students and faculty whose work concerns documenting, analyzing, motivating or modeling synchronic and/or diachronic variation in language. Meetings are usually held on alternating Fridays. Each meeting features a presentation followed by discussion.

To see the current list of speakers and meeting schedule, together with further information about the workshop, please visit our webpage at

If you are interested in presenting work as part of this series, please contact Carissa Abrego-Collier ( Graduate students from linguistics, areal language studies, psychology, and allied fields are especially encouraged to present.

Any persons with a disability who believe they might need assistance in attending the workshops are asked to contact Carissa Abrego-Collier in advance.