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A common phonological process by which the phonetics of a
speech segment becomes more like that of another segment in a
word (or at a word boundary). A common example of
assimilationwould be "don't be silly" where the /n/ and /t/ in
"don't" are assimilated to /m/ and /p/ by the following /b/,
where said naturally in many accents and discourse styles
("dombe silly").Assimilation can be synchronic being an active
process in a language at a given point in time or diachronic being
a historical sound change.
A related process is coarticulation where one segment influencesanother to produce an allophonic variation, such as vowels
acquiring the feature nasal before nasal consonants when the
velum opens prematurely or /b/ becoming labialised as in
"boot". Thisarticle will describe both processes under the term,
The physiological or psychological mechanisms of coarticulation
are unknown, but we often loosely speak of a segment as
"triggering" anassimilatory change in another segment. In
assimilation, the phonological patterning of the language,
discourse styles and accent are some of the factors contributing
to changes observed.
Thereare four configurations found in assimilations: the increase
in phonetic similarity may be between adjacent segments, or
between segments separated by one or more intervening
segments; and thechanges may be in reference to a preceding
segment, or to a following one. Although all four occur, changes
in regard to a following adjacent segment account for virtually all
assimilatory changes (andmost of the regular ones). Also,
assimilations to an adjacent segment are vastly more frequent
than assimilations to a non-adjacent one. (These radical

asymmetries might contain hints about themechanisms
involved, but they are unobvious.)
If a sound changes with reference to a following segment, it is
traditionally called "regressive assimilation"; changes with
reference to a...
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