In phonology, epenthesis (/əˈpɛnθəsɪs/, Ancient Greek ἐπένθεσις - epenthesis, from epi "on" + en "in" + thesis "putting") is the addition of one or more sounds to a word, especially to the interior of a word. Epenthesis may be divided into two types: excrescence (if the sound added is a consonant) and anaptyxis (if the sound added is a vowel).
Epenthesis is used to ease pronunciation. The phonotactics of a given language may discourage vowels in hiatus or consonant clusters, and a consonant or vowel may be added to make pronunciation easier.
A consonant may be added to separate vowels in hiatus. This is the case with linking and intrusive R.
A vowel may be placed between consonants to separate them.
In French, /t/ is inserted in inverted interrogative phrases between a verb ending in a vowel and a pronoun beginning with a vowel, such as il a ('he has') > a-t-il ('has he?'). Here there is no epenthesis from a historical perspective, since the a-t is derived from Latin habet (he has), and the t is therefore the original third person verb inflection. However it is correct to call this epenthesis when viewed synchronically, since the modern basic form of the verb is a, and the psycholinguistic process is therefore the addition of t to the base form.
A similar example is the English indefinite article a, which becomes an before a vowel. In Old English, this was ane in all positions, so a diachronic analysis would see the original n disappearing except where a following vowel required its retention: an > a. However a synchronic analysis, in keeping with the perception of most native speakers, would (equally correctly) see it as epenthesis: a > an.
An example in an English song is "The Umbrella Man", where the meter requires "umbrella" to be pronounced with four syllables, um-buh-rel-la, so that "any umbrellas" has the meter ány úmberéllas. The same thing occurs in the song Umbrella.
Epenthesis most often occurs within unfamiliar or complex consonant clusters. For example, the name Dwight is commonly pronounced with an epenthetic schwa between the /d/ and the /w/, and many speakers insert schwa between the /l/ and /t/ of realtor. Epenthesis is sometimes used for humorous or childlike effect. For example, the cartoon character Yogi Bear says "pic-a-nic basket" for "picnic basket." Another example is to be found in the chants of England football fans in which England is usually rendered as [ˈɪŋɡələnd], or the pronunciation of "athlete" as "ath-e-lete". Some apparent occurrences of epenthesis, however, have a separate cause: the pronunciation of nuclear as nucular arises out of analogy with other -cular words (binocular, particular, etc.), rather than epenthesis.
A limited number of words in Japanese use epenthetic consonants to separate vowels, example of this is the word harusame (春雨, spring rain) which is a compound of haru and ame in which an /s/ is added to separate the final /u/ of haru and the initial /a/ of ame; note that this is a synchronic analysis (using current forms to analyze an irregularity). To give a diachronic (historical) analysis, since epenthetic consonants are not used regularly in modern Japanese, it is possible that this epenthetic /s/ is a hold over from Old Japanese. It is also possible that OJ /ame2/ was once pronounced */same2/, and the /s/ is not epenthetic but simply retained archaic pronunciation. Another example is kosame (小雨, light rain).
Certain word compounds show an epenthetic /w/. One example is the word baai (場合, situation), which is a combination of ba (場, place) and ai (合い, meet): in some dialects it is pronounced bawai.
Epenthesis of a vowel, or anaptyxis (ἀνάπτυξις, "growth" in Greek), is also known by the Sanskrit term svarabhakti. Some accounts distinguish between "intrusive vowels", vowel-like releases of consonants as phonetic detail, and true epenthetic vowels, which are required by the phonotactics of the language and acoustically identical with phonemic vowels.
Epenthesis often breaks up a consonant cluster or vowel sequence that is not permitted by the phonotactics of a language. Sporadic cases can be less obviously motivated, however, such as warsh 'wash' with an extra r in some varieties of American English or Hamtramck being pronounced 'Hamtramick' as if there were an extra i.
Regular or semiregular epenthesis commonly occurs in languages which use affixes. For example, a reduced vowel /ɨ/ is inserted before the English plural suffix -/z/ and the past tense suffix -/d/ when the root ends in a similar consonant: glass → glasses /ˈɡlæsɨz/ or /ˈɡlɑːsɨz/; bat → batted /ˈbætɨd/.
Vocalic epenthesis typically occurs when words are borrowed from a language that has consonant clusters or syllable codas that are not permitted in the borrowing language, though this is not always the cause.
Languages use various vowels for this purpose, though schwa is quite common when it is available. For example,
In Finnish, there are two epenthetic vowels and two nativization vowels. One epenthetic vowel is the preceding vowel, found in the illative case ending -(h)*n, e.g. maahan, taloon. The second one is [e], connecting stems that have historically been consonant stems to their case endings, e.g. nim+n → nimen.
In standard Finnish, consonant clusters may not be broken by epenthetic vowels; foreign words undergo consonant deletion rather than addition of vowels. However, modern loans may not end in consonants. Even if the word, such as a personal name, is not loaned, a paragogic vowel is needed to connect a consonantal case ending to the word. The vowel is /i/, e.g. (Inter)net → netti, or in the case of personal name, Bush + -sta → Bushista "about Bush".
Finnish has moraic consonants, of which L, H and N are of interest in this case. In standard Finnish, these are slightly intensified when preceding a consonant in a medial cluster, e.g. -hj-. Some dialects, like Savo and Ostrobothnian, employ epenthesis instead, using the preceding vowel in clusters of type -lC- and -hC-, and in Savo, -nh-. (In Finnish linguistics this phenomenon is often referred to as švaa; the same word can also mean schwa, but it is not a phoneme in Finnish, so usually there is no danger of confusion.) For example, Pohjanmaa "Ostrobothnia" → Pohojammaa, ryhmä → ryhymä, and Savo vanha → vanaha. Ambiguities may result: salmi "strait" vs. salami. (An exception is that in Pohjanmaa, -lj- and -rj- become -li- and -ri-, respectively, e.g. kirja → kiria. Also, in a small region in Savo, the vowel /e/ is used in the same role.)
Savolainen, Erkki (1998). (in Finnish) (HTML). . Internetix. http://www.internetix.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/valivok.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. =""Labrune"> Labrune, Laurence. (PDF). Université Bordeaux 3 & CNRS. http://erssab.u-bordeaux3.fr/IMG/pdf/labrune_article_final_r.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
Savolainen, Erkki (1998). (in Finnish) (HTML). . Internetix. http://www.internetix.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/valivok.html. Retrieved 2010-08-26. " =""/>