Assimilation (phonetic)

phonetic assimilation is a very frequent type of phonetic modification undergone by a sound in contact with a its neighbor, who tends to reduce the differences between the two. It consists of acquisition by a sound of one or more characteristics specific to a its neighbor. Contrary, when two similar sounds in more or less direct contact move away one from the other, one speaks about dissimilation. An assimilation between sounds which are not in direct contact, a remote action of the one of the sounds on the other, names one expansion (it is an example).

The phenomenon of the phonetic assimilation is related to a physiological constraint, that of the slowness of the bodies of the word. To highlight an assimilation, it is necessary to be able to compare two pronunciations, for example one with slow reading and the other with speed reading or current.

Synopsis

Example of assimilation

Pronunciations of a statement

The comparison of two pronunciations of the statement "of the silk rollers" makes it possible to highlight the phenomenon of the phonetic assimilation:

  • the statement read and pronounced slowly: [ de?ulod?swa ];
  • the statement read and pronounced quickly: [ de?ulotswa ];

Remarks

It is noticed that the fast or current pronunciation gives place to two linguistic phenomena:

  • of the phoneme /?/(known as E "null and void" or "dumb". One will transcribe it here by ? although the symbol of does not correspond exactly to the French phoneme);
  • the substitution of the sound [ T ] to the sound [ D ] by assimilation.

Assumption

To explain this phenomenon, it is necessary to analyze the characteristics of the sounds [ D ], [ S ] and [ T ]. The sound [ D ] is one lamino-dental consonant (or lamino-alveolar) sound and oral. The elision of /?/gives place to the bringing together of the sound [ D ] with the sound [ S ], which is deaf (or not-voiced). Considering the slowness of the bodies of the word, the sound [ D ] adopts deafness (or not-voicing) sound [ S ] which follows it and becomes [ T ]. The compared phonetic analysis of the sounds [ D ] and [ T ] makes it possible to validate this assumption:

  • [ D ]: occlusive consonant, lamino-dental consonant (or lamino-alveolar), sound and oral;
  • [ T ]: occlusive consonant, lamino-dental consonant (or lamino-alveolar), deaf person and oral;

Conclusion

Thus the sound [ D ] becomes [ T ] by assimilation of the deafness (or not-voicing) of the sound [ S ] which follows it. The notation of a phonetic assimilation is carried out with ; in our example, the devoicing of the sound [ D ] will be indicated with the diacrity [? ]: [ de?ulod?swa ]. Indeed, in an analysis, [ T ] and /d/ devoized are not identical: in the second, the muscles implied in the word are not also active (because, normally, a sound sound is already accompanied by the vibrations glottales, which makes it more intense) than in the first: it is said that [ D? ] is a soft consonant, [ T ] strong (like are the deaf persons, normally). Contrary, one [ K ], hard consonant, voiced becomes [ K? ], near to [ G ] but extremely.

Types of assimilations

One distinguishes several types of phonetic assimilation, according to the position of the sounds influenced compared to the sound which influences.

Regressive assimilation

Note: in the following transcriptions, the symbol mean "approaches" and not "becomes".

An assimilation is known as regressive by which the influenced sound is before the sound which influences it:

  • statement: "of silk";
  • slow pronunciation: [ d?swa ];
  • fast pronunciation: after elision of the sound [ ø ], [ D ]? [ T ] by assimilation of the deafness of the sound [ S ] which follows it;
    • finer transcription: [ d?swa ] (the consonant /d/ remains, even deafened, soft).

Progressive assimilation

An assimilation is known as progressive by which the influenced sound is after the sound which influences it:

  • statement: "hair"
  • slow pronunciation: [??vø ];
  • fast pronunciation: after elision of the sound [ ø ], [ v ]? [ F ] by assimilation of the deafness of the sound [? ] which precedes it;
    • transcription: [?v?ø ].

Double assimilation

Is known as double an at the same time regressive and progressive assimilation:

  • statement: "during the holidays"
  • slow pronunciation: [ p??d??levak??s ];
  • fast pronunciation: [ D ]? [ N ] by assimilation of the nasality of the vowels [ ã ] surrounding it;
    • transcription: [ p??d???levak??s ].

Criteria of regression or progression

It is not possible to predict with exactitude the occurrence of the assimilations. On the other hand, certain criteria make it possible to determine their regression or their progression:

  • the position of the sound in a syllable or a word: a sound in initial position will be likely more to transmit its characteristics than a sound in final position;
  • the articulatory force of a sound, determined by Pierre Delattre: the more this one is raised, the more this sound will be likely to transmit its characteristics to the sounds which surround it. Here the list of the consonant sounds classified in descending order according to their articulatory force:
    1. [ p ], [ T ], [ K ];
    2. [ L ], [ F ];
    3. [ B ], [ D ], [ G ], [ m ], [ N ], [ S ], [? ];
    4. [? ], [ J ];
    5. [? ], [ W ], [? ], [ Z ], [? ], [ v ].

Direct assimilation

An assimilation of two sounds in contact is known as direct. One distinguishes the direct assimilations within the same word and the direct assimilations inside a sentence.

Within the same word

It is difficult to speak about assimilation within the same word, with the junction of two syllables. One can thus take three examples which would logically make it possible to highlight this type of assimilation:

  • "absent" [ aps?? ] ;
  • "subtle" [ syptil ];
  • "anecdote" [ an?gdot ].

However, to highlight an assimilation, whatever it is, it is necessary to have two pronunciations. In the three cases above, it would be necessary to make a syllabic pronunciation division to highlight the assimilations:

  • [ ab_s?? ] ? [ aps?? ] (or [ ab?s??]), regressive assimilation of the deafness of [ S ] by [ B ];
  • [ syb_til ]? [ syptil ] (or [ syb?til ]), regressive assimulation of the deafness of [ T ] by [ B ];
  • [ a_n?k_d?t ]? [ an?gd?t ] (or [ anek?d?t ]), regressive assimilation of the sonority of [ D ] by [ K ], which becomes a voiced hard consonant;

This theory of the direct assimilation within the same word, between two syllables, is disputed by a certain number of linguists, who prefer speech of correlation of voicing between two consonants: if the first consonant is sound, the second will be it also, and conversely.

Within the same sentence

The direct assimilations within the same sentence, between two words, are more easily highlighted:

  • a vague feeling, [??vags??tim?? ] ? [??vag?s??tim?? ] (or [??vaks??tim?? ]) : regressive assimilation of the deafness of [ S ] by [ G ];
  • washes itself, [ lavtwa ]? [ lav?twa ] (or [ laftwa ]): regressive assimilation of the deafness of [ T ] by [ v ].

Indirect assimilation

Is known as indirect an assimilation only after one elision.

  • secondary, [ s?g??d?? ] ? [ s?g??d?? ] (or [ zg??d?? ]) : regressive assimilation of the sonority of [ G ] by [ Z ] after elision of [? ];
  • silk rollers, [ de?ulodøswa ]? [ de?ulod?swa ] (or [ de?ulotswa ]): regressive assimilation of the deafness of [ S ] by [ D ] after elision of [? ].

To note that although "indirect", these assimilations are not therefore of expansions : the sounds remain in direct contact.

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