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The term epenthesis may also be used to refer to the addition of segmental material to satisfy a morphological template, or minimal word length requirement.Theoretically, epenthesis may occur as the result of a phonological, morphological, or phonetic rule.
Epenthesis may be divided into two types: excrescence (if the sound added is a consonant) and anaptyxis (if the sound added is a vowel). However it is correct to call this epenthesis when viewed synchronically, since the modern basic form of the verb is a, and the psycholinguistic process is therefore the addition of t to the base form.
A similar example is the English indefinite article a, which becomes an before a vowel.
However, in a theoretical framework lacking derivations, such as optimality theory, it is possible to refer only to surface-true epenthesis.
In what follows only apparent cases of surface-true epenthesis will be discussed; this is partially for practical reasons—the burden of proof is higher for cases of “covert” epenthesis—and partially because optimality theory provides a more restrictive prediction about the contexts in which epenthesis can occur, and which segments can epenthesize.
Regular or semiregular epenthesis commonly occurs in languages which use affixes. Vocalic epenthesis typically occurs when words are borrowed from a language that has consonant clusters or syllable codas that are not permitted in the borrowing language, though this is not always the cause.
Languages use various vowels for this purpose, though schwa is quite common when it is available.
This means that epenthesized segments may actually fail to surface—if a later rule deletes that segment.
The pattern may also be rendered opaque if the original triggering environment is altered by the action of subsequent rules (counter-bleeding); or if the relevant environment surfaces only later, failing to trigger epenthesis (counter-feeding).
Other terms that are often used synonymously with epenthesis include “insertion,” “intrusion,” and “linking,” although the latter two may also be used to refer only to certain specific kinds of epenthesis.
Epenthesis may occur in a variety of environments: intervocalically, interconsonantally, word or syllable initially, and word or syllable finally.