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A metaplasm is a change in the pronunciation or the orthography of a word. The change may be phonetic only, such as pronouncing Mississippi as Missippi in English, or acceptance of a new word structure, such as Latin calidus > Italian caldo "hot". Changes at either level may or may not be recognized in standard spelling, depending on the orthographic traditions of the language in question. Originally the term referred to techniques used in Ancient Greek and Latin poetry, or processes in those languages' grammar.
Many phonological changes found frequently in the natural development of languages are metaplasms:
- Epenthesis, addition of a sound to a word:
- Synalepha, two syllables becoming one, occurs by elision, crasis, synaeresis, or synizesis.
- Elision ("contraction" in English grammar), removal of a sound:
- Crasis (Ancient Greek contraction), coalescence of two vowels into a new long vowel.
- Synaeresis, pronunciation of two vowels as a diphthong. Opposite: diaeresis, pronunciation of a diphthong as two syllabic vowels.
- Synizesis, pronunciation of two vowels that do not form a normal diphthong as one syllable, without change in writing. Opposite: hiatus, distinct pronunciation of two adjacent vowels.
- Metathesis, rearranging of sounds or features of sounds, may affect vowel lengths (quantitative metathesis).
- From Greek μεταπλασμός, from μεταπλάσσειν "mold into a different shape."