What is the name of the phonetic shift behind the common mispronunciation of the word nuclear (nucular)? Or, if the answer is "none", then I would appreciate learning the origin of the pronunciation.
This phenomenon is known as metathesis.
I personally find the Zwicky hypothesis more compelling: the pronunciation is formed by analogy with words like "molecular" and "particular". But both are possible, and in fact, it doesn't necessarily have to be the same method of production for all speakers — there could be interspeaker variation.
(Note that Zwicky's explanation isn't actually "metathesis" per se at all; instead, being nuke + ular, it is formed "as it should be".)
Causes of the metathesis nuclear > nucular
It occurred to me that very few other words have the syllabic make-up of nùclear, but there is a host of words in `-cular (with antepenultimate stress) eg binocular, vascular, muscular, particular, spectacular to name a few.
Thus the shift nuclear > nucular makes perfectly good sense, as a case where an isolated make-up is adapted to a more prevalent pattern.
protected by Community♦ Nov 14 '13 at 15:36
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