In linguistics, prothesis (//; from post-classical Latin based on Ancient Greek: πρόθεσις próthesis 'placing before'), or less commonly prosthesis (from Ancient Greek πρόσθεσις prósthesis 'addition') 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 prothesis is called prothetic or prosthetic.
|Sound change and alternation|
Prothesis is different from the adding of a prefix, which changes the meaning of a word.
Thus, Latin status changed to Spanish estado and French état, été (in which the s was later lost) "state"/"been", and Latin speciālis changed to Spanish and Old French especial (Modern French spécial and Italian speciale).
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, borrowed from French, becomes Turkish istasyon.
Similarly, in Bashkir, a prosthetic vowel is added to Russian loanwords if a consonant or a consonant cluster appears at the beginning: арыш "rye" from Russian рожь, өҫтәл "table" from Russian стол, эскәмйә "bench" from Russian скамья, etc.
In Nenets, Enets and Nganasan, prothesis of a velar nasal [ŋ] before vowels has occurred historically: the Nenets words /ŋuːʔ/ "road", /ŋin/ "bow" are cognate with Hungarian út, íj with the same meaning.
In some varieties of Nenets, the rule remains productive: the initial syllable cannot start with a vowel, and vowel-initial loanwords are adapted with prothetic /ŋ/.
In Persian, loanwords with an initial sp-, st-, sk- or sm- add a short vowel e at the beginning: spray → esprey, stadium → estadiun, Stalin → Estalin, skate → eskeyt, scan → eskan etc.
Persians learning Polish thus pronounce smacznego (bon appétit) as esmacznego.
Semitic languages regularly break up initial two-consonant clusters by adding a prosthetic vowel. The vowel may be preceded by the glottal stop /ʔ/ (see aleph) or, in Hebrew, /h/, which may be pronounced or simply written. Because of the triconsonantal root morphology of Semitic languages, the prosthetic vowel may appear regularly when the first two consonants of the root lack an intermediate vowel, such as in verb conjugation; Arabic ʼaktubu (I write) from the verb kataba (root ktb).
Welsh sometimes features h-prothesis only for vowel-initial words. It occurs in words after ei (her), ein (our) and eu (their): oedran (age) ei hoedran (her age). It also occurs with ugain (twenty) following ar (on) in the traditional counting system: un ar hugain "one on twenty" (twenty-one).
A prothetic vowel performs external sandhi in Italian: compare la scuola ("the school") vs. in iscuola ("at school"). It is, therefore, conjectured both that the origins of the Romance prothesis are phonetical, rather than grammatical. Prothesis originally broke consonant clusters if the preceding word ended in a consonant. There was no prothesis in the Romance dialects that had lost their terminal consonants.
James L. Barker writes: "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".
- "prothesis". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "Prothesis". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
- πρόθεσις. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
- Trask, Robert Lawrence. 1999. A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology. London: Routledge, p. 296.
- "Prosthesis". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.,
- πρόσθεσις. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
- Heinrich Lausberg, Romanische Sprachwissenschaft [Romance Linguistics], Vol. 1, Berlin, 1956, pp.64–65 (in German)
- Paul V. Cubberley, "Russian: A Linguistic Introduction" (2002) ISBN 0521796415, p.35, books.google.com
- Lipiński, Edward (2001). Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar. Peeters Publishers. p. 200.
- 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
- "Crimean Tatar-Russian as a Reflection of Crimean Tatar National Identity", iccrimea.org
- James L. Barker, "Accessory Vowels (Voyelles prostetiques et autres)", Modern Language Notes, Vol. 40, No. 3 (March 1925), pp. 162–164; see p.162 JSTOR 2914173.
- Andrei A. Avram, "On the Status of Prothetic Vowels in the Atlantic French Creoles" (pdf file), Antwerp Papers in Linguistics, Issue 107 (2004), ua.ac.be