Slavic Liquid Metathesis and Pleophony - Reflexes in Slavic Languages

Reflexes in Slavic Languages

In South Slavic the vowel and the liquid metathesize, and as a side-effect the vowel lengthens (*e > *ē > ě, *a > *ā > a):

*al > la
*ar > ra
*el > lě
*er > rě


  • PSl. *gardu > OCS gradъ ('settlement')
  • PSl. *walti > Serbo-Croatian vlȃt ('blade, stalk')
  • PSl. *wertmēn > OCS vrěmę ('time')
  • PSl. *melka > OCS mlěko ('milk)

Compare the preserved VRC structure in Lithuanian gar̃das, váltis, Sanskrit vártman ('path'), English milk as opposed to the metathesized South Slavic RVC structure.

Word-initially, metathesis with lengthening occurred always only in south and central Slovak dialects (i.e. just like in South Slavic), and in the rest of West and East Slavic languages only when the syllable is under acute (rising) accent; compare: Proto-Slavic *a̋rdla ('plough'):

  • Serbo-Croatian rȁlo
  • Czech rádlo
  • Russian rálo

If the syllable was not acuted, metathesis in West and East Slavic occurs without the lengthening so EPSl. *a retains short quantity and yields /o/; compare EPSl. *ȃlkuti ('elbow') > Serbo-Croatian lȃkat, but Czech loket.

Word-medially, on the other hand, the following occurs: in Polish and Sorbian languages metathesis without lengthening occurs; compare Polish brzeg, mleko, groch, młot as opposed to OCS brěgъ, mlěko, Slovene gràh, OCS mlatъ. In North-West Lechitic (northern Kashubian, Slovincian, Pomeranian and Polabian) *CalC and *CelC yield ClŭC (Polabian glåvă ‘head’, å < ъ), *CerC > CreC (without lengthening, as in Polish), while in *CarC, ar becomes ŭr, just like word-initially under acute (Polabian råmą ‘arm’ < *rъmę < *armę), but does not undergo metathesis. Compare Polabian porsą to Slovene prasè and Pomerian gard (often in toponymics, e.g. Białogard and similar) to OCS gradъ (note that unchanged ar in *gardŭ would have given or in Pomeranian). In Czecho-Slovak word-medial metathesis occurs with the lengthening, just as in South Slavic; compare Czech mlat, hrách to Polish młot, groch with /o/ inside. East Slavic languages manifest so-called pleophony (also called polnoglasie or full vocalization) - *CarC > CoroC, *CerC > CereC, and *CalC/*CelC > ColoC; compare Russian górod, béreg, mólot, molokó. Here the closed syllable problem is resolved by inserting another vowel after the liquid consonant. In North-West Lechitic the reflexes of *CelC and *CalC are the same.

Read more about this topic:  Slavic Liquid Metathesis And Pleophony

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