A while back I ran across a word that described the act of inserting additional letters or sounds when a person pronounces a word (which results in a mispronunciation). What is the word that has this meaning?

Update: My original example wasn't very good, but Brian Donovan provided a good example--decathlon pronounced as "decathalon" (inserting a second "a" sound where there is no "a").

Another example: hamster pronounced as "hampster"

  • Is this what you're looking for? – Neeku Jul 8 '14 at 16:05
  • For another example, I once cringed to hear "decathlon" pronounced as "decathalon" by the pronouncer at a children's spelling bee. The poor child was duly misled and eliminated. Similarly some Saint Louis relatives of mine used to refer to the "Missoura Athaletic Club." – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '14 at 16:16
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    @Neeku looks like that is a specialized case of what I was looking for; I apologize for the horrible example I originally included. – rob Jul 8 '14 at 16:49
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    BTW, it's not letters that are being inserted. Letters can only be written, never spoken; it's vowels -- real sounds pronounced by real vocal tracts of real humans -- that are inserted. And not just any vowel, either. Virtually always in English it's a shwa that's inserted. – John Lawler Jul 8 '14 at 17:04
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    Well, it's always vowels, whether it's letters or sounds. And while the sounds are identical, the letters aren't, since there usually isn't a standard spelling for representing epenthetic vowels, and no spelling for shwa anyway. – John Lawler Jul 8 '14 at 17:28

Simple insertion is epenthesis; swapping, metathesis.

  • Off-topic: Your rep and the -99-ending badge count are being envied!! – Neeku Jul 8 '14 at 16:06
  • @tchrist that was fast; thanks! Bonus points for also mentioning swapping. – rob Jul 8 '14 at 16:46
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    And vowels that have been inserted by epenthesis are epenthetic vowels. The automnemonic for epenthesis is epenethesis, and the one for metathesis is methatesis. See also haplogy, pocope, apocop, and syncpe. – John Lawler Jul 8 '14 at 17:00

I think the word you are looking for is paragoge. This means "the addition of a sound or a group of sounds at the end of a word."

I like Brian Donovan's example, decathlon, and would add that another common example is "rig-a-marole" for rigmarole. Off topic: The opposite mistake, taking away a sound that is needed, is called hyphaeresis.


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