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What are the types of assimilation in linguistics?

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Becky Diamond eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Speech is not a series of separate, individual fragments. Therefore, movement of our vocal organs is influenced by the sounds preceding and following the current sound being articulated. Assimilation is the term used to define the process when a sound changes some of its properties to be more similar to those nearby.

There are two types of assimilation: Regressive and progressive.

Regressive, also referred to as “right-to-left” assimilation, refers to when a sound becomes more like a subsequent sound. It is sometimes called anticipatory assimilation, as the changing sound anticipates the following sound in some manner.

Progressive Assimilation, also referred to as “left-to-right” assimilation, is when a sound becomes more like the sound that was just pronounced before it or the one that lingers from the sound just articulated. It is also called perseverative assimilation, as the sound advances, or moves forward, onto the next sound in a word.

Payal Khullar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In phonology (linguistics), assimilation is a process of sound change in which a sound becomes similar to another sound in its immediate environment. Assimilation of sounds can happen within a word or can even cross word boundary. Usually, the sounds undergo a change in one or more features so as to assimilate to other sounds in their environment.

In phonetics and phonology, we can classify and study sound segments in terms of a set of features. Two distinct sounds can have some common features, but will never have exactly the same set of features. For example, the phoneme /p/ is bilabial, plosive and voiceless, and differs from the sound /b/ in voicelessness. You might want to read about Distinctive Features by Jacobsen et al. for a better understanding of the theory of phonological features. During assimilation, there can be a change in the place of articulation, manner of articulation, voicing, etc. 

Assimilation of Place: In rapid speech, the native British English speakers would pronounce the phrase ‘ten balls’ as something like /tɛm...

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