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Anaptyxis is the inclusion of one or more vowel sounds, especially at the beginning or the end of a word for the ease of pronunciation.

Anaptyxis is a type of epenthesis, which means the addition of one or two sounds in a word. There are two kinds of epenthesis: excrescence and anaptyxis, also known as svarabhakti. When one or more consonant sounds are added to a word, it is called excrescence. The inclusion of vowel sounds to a particular word is known as anaptyxis. Writers often use this technique in their works to ease the pronunciation and emphasize specific words.

Anaptyxis pronunciation: ah-nap-tik-sis

Anaptyxis definition and examples

Anaptyxis Definition

Anaptyxis is the deliberate insertion of one or more vowel sounds between two consonants in pronunciation. For example, the word “film” is often pronounced as “filim”. There is an inclusion of the “i” sound in the middle of the consonant cluster formed by “l” and “m” that is hard to pronounce together. As one can see, the included vowel sound is identical to the main vowel sound “i”.

The term anaptyxis originated from Greek anaptuxis, which means “unfolding”. It is a combination of two Greek words, “ana-” meaning back or again, and “-ptuxis” meaning folding.

There are two kinds of anaptyxis:

  • Prothesis: is the inclusion of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word without changing its meaning or structure.
  • Paragoge: is the addition of a sound or syllable at the end of a word.

Examples of Anaptyxis in Linguistics

Anaptyxis generally occurs at the beginning or end of a word.

Beginning of a Word

In Western Romance languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, there is an inclusion of vowel sounds at the beginning of words borrowed from Latin and French. For example, the Latin “spatha” is pronounced in Spanish as “espada” with the inclusion of “e” at the beginning. Similarly, Latin “schola,” meaning school, is adopted as “école” in Modern Spanish.

Ending of a Word

In certain English languages, the consonant cluster at the end of a word is broken by the insertion of a vowel. For example, the word “film” becomes “filim” or “filam” in Irish, Scottish, and South African English.

Everyday Usage

Anaptyxis is mostly used in informal speech compared to written language. In the English football fans’ chants, England is pronounced as “Engaland”. Another example of anaptyxis is the inclusion of “e” in “athelete”.

It is also used to create a humorous effect. For example, the cartoon character Yogi Bear utters the word “picnic” as “picanic”. In North American dialects, the word “nuclear” is spoken as “nucular” like the word “binocular”.

Examples of Anaptyxis in Literature

Writers often include a vowel at the beginning or end of a particular word to rhyme it with another or to add an extra syllable to even the syllable count in a line. Anaptyxis is not a common literary device that is used by present-day writers. However, it was used in literary works written before the 20th-century. Some examples of anaptyxis can be found in the following works:

All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare

In Act IV, Scene 3 of the Shakespearean play, readers can find the use of anaptyxis:

I have to-night dispatched sixteen businesses, a month’s length a-piece, by an abstract of success: I have congied with the duke, done my adieu with his nearest; buried a wife, mourned for her; writ to my lady mother I am returning;

Anaptyxis occurs in “dispatched,” “a-piece,” etc. In grammar, a vowel sound is included at the end of the past form of a verb. For instance, there is an inclusion of “e” or the “i” sound in the word “dispatched”. Similarly, in “a-piece”, the speaker includes “a” at the beginning of the word for the sake of emphasis.

Sonnet 10 by William Shakespeare

Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,

But that thou none lov’st is most evident:

For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,

That ‘gainst thy self thou stick’st not to conspire,

In the first line, the word “beloved” contains two the inclusion of two vowel sounds, at the beginning as well as at the end. The addition of vowels enhances the meaning of the word that has become common in everyday usage.

Read all the 154 sonnets and the greatest sonnets of Shakespeare.

A Bird, came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

Poets use this literary device to create internal rhyming between words. Consider the first line from Emily Dickinson’s poem. In this line, the poet adds the vowel “e” to “glanced” (or she uses the past form of the verb) to rhyme it with “rapid”.

He glanced with rapid eyes,

That hurried all abroad –

They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,

He stirred his Velvet Head. –

In the second line, Dickinson adds a vowel sound at the beginning of “broad” to exaggerate the flight of the bird. Similarly, there is another instance of anaptyxis in “looked,” the past form of the verb “look”.

Explore more Emily Dickinson poems.

Why Do We Use Anaptyxis?

Anaptyxis occurs for a number of reasons that include but is not limited to the following ones:

  • Ease of Pronunciation. It is too difficult to pronounce two consonants at the end of a word. Therefore, we include a vowel similar to the main vowel already present in the word in order to break the consonant cluster. For example, the US city name of Wayne County, Michigan, “Hamtramck” is pronounced as “Hamtramick”.
  • Sound Change. When a word of a specific language is adopted in another language, it undergoes a sound change. One or more vowels are added to the word to change the sound. For example, the Latin word “speciālis” was adopted into Old French as “especiel,” with the inclusion of the “e” at the beginning.
  • In Grammar. Anaptyxis is used to break the consonant cluster at the end of a word’s plural form. For example, there is an insertion of the “i” sound in the plural form of “glass”: “glasses”.

Anaptyxis and Epenthesis

Anaptyxis is a kind of epenthesis, the insertion of a sound or letter in a word. When there is an inclusion of one or more vowel sounds in a word, it is called anaptyxis. There is another type of epenthesis, which is called excrescence. When there is an insertion of consonants within a word, the process is called excrescence. The opposite of epenthesis is known as elision, commonly used in poetry.


What is the meaning of anaptyxis?

Anaptyxis has come from the Greek word “anaptuxis” which means “unfolding”. It occurs when a vowel breaks the consonant cluster for ease of pronunciation. This technique is often used in everyday speech compared to written language.

Why do writers use anaptyxis?

Writers prior to the 20th-century used anaptyxis either for the sake of rhyme or for the metrical pattern. It was also used to emphasize particular words. For instance, the inclusion of “a” at the beginning of “blazing” or “running” puts more emphasis on the acts.

What are some of the common examples of anaptyxis?

Some common examples of anaptyxis include “filim,” “picanic,” “nucular,” etc. In a number of English dialects, the vowel “i” is added to the word “film” and pronounced as “filim”.

What is the relationship between epenthesis and anaptyxis?

Epenthesis is a literary device that occurs when one or more sounds or syllables are added to a word, particularly at the beginning or at the end. When the addition sound is a vowel, it is called anaptyxis.

What is svarabhakti?

Svarabhakti is the addition of a vowel at the starting and ending of a word, similar to the literary term anaptyxis. This term originated from Sanskrit and is used in North Indian languages.

  • Prothesis: is a literary device that occurs when a writer adds one or two extra vowel sounds to the beginning of a word.
  • Tmesis: is a rhetorical device that occurs when a word is included between a compound word or phrase.
  • Elision: is the removal of a consonant or vowel sound from a word or phrase to shorten the pronunciation.
  • Consonance: is a poetic device that occurs when a consonant sound is repeated in nearby words or phrases in both prose and poetry.

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