This situation is most noticeable when a singer adds a syllable to a word like "Fuh-ree" instead of "free" or "Buh-rave" instead of "brave". It's not Melisma, which is intentional by the writer.

  • 1
    If it's inside the word, it's called Epenthesis and the vowel inserted is an epenthetic vowel. The self-demonstrating mnemonic is Epenethesis Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 19:51
  • I'm just curious about the use of the word melisma, which I only know as a term related to singing. Does it have another meaning, relevant to this?
    – user323578
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 16:58
  • @JamesRandom no other meaning than then one mentioned. Just wanted to clarify that I wasn't talking about the intentional stringing along of one syllable.
    – Ben Plont
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 15:42

5 Answers 5


The phonological process observed here is anaptyxis, which is the insertion of a vowel. In English, the most common vowel thus inserted is the schwa, as seen in your two examples.

  • +1 I like this answer as well, but anaptyxis is specific that it's epenthesis of a vowel. I think overall Epenthesis is the best answer.
    – Ben Plont
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:32
  • @BenPlont Both of the examples you showed were epenthesis of a vowel, so the most specific term is anaptyxis. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:33
  • But it's not necessarily inside a word. anaptyxis is insertion of a vowel sound in general. An example is the middle -a- in "thataway". Don't get me wrong, you've got a solid answer and I upvoted you.
    – Ben Plont
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:48

It is epenthesis and anaptyxis, but those are rather vague terms. Epenthesis, in its function, ordinarily makes things easier to say, by breaking up difficult clusters, but the sort of addition being asked about here has an opposite function—it makes something more emphatic and, incidentally, harder to say. So I'd describe it as a fortition; basically as a lengthening, for emphasis.

Resonant consonants, i.e., liquids, glides and nasals, can be prolonged for emphasis. "Brave" -> "Brrrrave!". "Beautiful" -> "beee-youtiful". And a lengthened resonant is interpreted as its own syllable, whose vowel will be the vowel congener of the original consonant, if there is a natural choice of such a vowel. The vowel counterpart of the [j] glide in "beautiful" is [i] -- palatal vowel goes with palatal glide, so that's easy enough. In other cases, the choice of vowel that turns up in the new syllable is somewhat less obvious.

As I recall, this account of these emphatic syllables in English was first suggested to me by my teacher David Stampe.


Actually, what you're speaking of is called reduplication, which is the opposite of haplology.

Haplology involves dropping a syllable that is identical or very similar to an adjacent one, i.e., someone pronounces the word "preventative" as "preventive."

Reduplication is the opposite and involves repeating a syllable that is either identical or very similar, i.e., someone pronounces the word "supportive" as "supportative."

Hope this helps!

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    Close, but not quite right. Reduplication would be something like fe-free or ba-brave. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 23:24
  • Reduplication doesn't merely involve repetition such as you have mentioned. A word like flim-flam also is reduplicative. It is possible to reduplicate a syllable with a phonological change, such as a vowel change. Unless you have a better answer, then I reject your notion that reduplication is "not quite right." Anyway....I have better things to do than go back and forth with someone on the internet. If you spend your life trying to "correct" everyone and every little thing that you believe to be "wrong" on the internet, then you are embarking on a vain enterprise.
    – Jeff Smith
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 20:38
  • I don't think the question's examples are reduplication because no sounds are repeated. Instead an extra vowel is inserted. And I only commented because this post came up in the new users review queue. If you're not willing to be challenged then maybe you should get off the internet. Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 20:48

Interesting discussion. This is what Wikipedia says which seems like the final answer: "Epenthesis may be divided into two types: excrescence, for the addition of a consonant, and anaptyxis (/ˌænəpˈtɪksɪs/) for the addition of a vowel." A common example is the word realtor (two syllables) pronounced as "real ah tor."


I had a very southern customer on a phone call who said (I.E.) my emal is Hail johnson @ google.net. He was asked to confirm it was hail like a hailstorm, he said no...............Ale johnson @google.net. He was again Asked again to confirm, Okay it's like beer , Ale right, he said "no...the letter ale" "L" is what he ment. Its a strong drawn out southern thing. I guess it's the addition of a syllable. I live in the south and have most of my life. Many variations to the southern dialect

  • 1
    The answer form is for expert answers that answer the question. In this case, the asker wants to know the right word for the phenomenon. Can you update your answer accordingly.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 22:34

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