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The 3rd person pronouns of Russian – ego him/it.ACC, her.ACC, ix them.ACC – gain an initial n when they are governed by most prepositions: nego/neё/nix. There are, of course, historical reasons for this, but in a synchronic analysis of the modern language, this is a morphologically or syntactically conditioned change.

I want to call this an "epenthetic n", but for some reason it seems wrong to call it epenthesis when it is not conditioned phonologically. Is there a better term?

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According to wiktionary it is prothesis, which is to my understanding epenthesis at the beginning of the word:

Following a preposition, a prothetic n- is attached to the pronoun in many Slavic languages, including Old Church Slavonic. This probably arose through resegmentation of prepositions that originally ended in -n; through the law of open syllables, it became preferable to consider the final consonant as part of the next syllable, so it was shifted onto the pronoun.

I was not able to locate the original source from the list of references, but it sounds quite natural. I was able to find a similar description of this written in Czech by Miroslav Vepřek - Komparativní tvarosloví staroslověnštiny who specifies the prepositions to be sъ a vъ (and not kъ as claimed by older sources).

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Whether or not there is a "better" term depends on your audience, and how annoyed they will be if you use the "wrong" term, according to their beliefs. You have apparently decided that this is to be analyzed as insertion (as opposed to deletion, or suppletion): where do you think this consonant is inserted? In the morphological component? In the phonological component? Or are you not concerned with synchronic analysis, under some particular theory?

"Epenthesis" is the broadest term for insertion ("insertion" is another obvious term for "insertion", perhaps also "intrusive" or "linking" as adjectives). You could use the term "prothesis" which specifically limits it to beginnings of words, but few people actually use that term. Wikipedia claims that "excrescence" is consonant insertion, but that doesn't match actual usage in the literature (that term is used neutrally w.r.t. what kind of segment is inserted, instead it's more about the phoneticness of the process).

In the phonological literature, it is not considered an impediment to using the term "epenthesis" if the conditions on insertion are partially morphological or syntactic. Obviously, though, if the process takes place in the syntax then it's not in the phonology, so any such case would not be dealt with in the phonological literature (and it would be distinctly strange to call anything in the syntax "epenthesis").

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Check the following Pronoun Comparison. The 'n' consonant is always present in the basic pronoun form: она, он, оно and likewise across Slavic languages. If I understand 'epenthetic' notion correctly it is rather contrary to what we have got here. It is the omission of the 'n' consonant which makes it easier to prononuce the pharse when the preposition is not required to be present.

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    I do not think it is the same n though. The original nominative form didn't have any n en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/j%D1%8C The nominative on comes from what is now о́ный. The link also says: Following a preposition, a prothetic n- is attached to the pronoun in many Slavic languages, including Old Church Slavonic. This probably arose through resegmentation of prepositions that originally ended in -n; through the law of open syllables, it became preferable to consider the final consonant as part of the next syllable, so it was shifted onto the pronoun. – Vladimir F Aug 26 '19 at 17:54
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    A prothetic -n cannot be at the same time the result of quote resegmentation of prepositions that originally ended in -n cause idem per idem it means they are not prothetic at all. Is it possible to trace the prepositions in the form you are speaking about, ie. before the resegmentation? – pbojczuk Aug 26 '19 at 19:33
  • These prepositions and prefixes are reconstructed, but are quite necesary for the etymology of many other words, like снять. You cannot really expect me to defend this directly, I can only quote scholar publications like the Slavic etymological dictionary of Kopečný. – Vladimir F Aug 26 '19 at 21:48

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