Assimilation (phonology)

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With assimilation (lat. Assimilare "like making", also: accommodation, approximation) is known in the phonology speech sound changes , mostly through co-articulation (articulatory simplification) arise.

A distinction is made between the Assimilans (agent; sound that affects another) and the Assimilandum (sound that is worked on). Example (from Duden ): The ‹b› in mhd. Lamb later became ‹m› in nhd. Lamm . Here ‹m› is Assimilans and ‹b› Assimilandum, because / m / worked on / b / until / b / assimilated to / m /.

Assimilation can be described on both a synchronous and a diachronic level. Synchronous assimilation is a natural process within any language. Diachronic or historical assimilation is present when the sound alignment has developed historically. The Italian word dottore , for example, was derived from the Latin doctor through regressive assimilation .

Descriptive features

Depending on the perspective, assimilations can be differentiated according to the following description features:

Direction of alignment

  • In perseverative (or progressive ) assimilation (adjusted subsequent sound) the characteristics of the first sound are retained and the second sound is made similar. That is, the Assimilans precedes the Assimilandum. This is the case, for example, with the English word passed . Here the d is pronounced like a ( voiceless ) t , since the preceding s is also voiceless. Voiced assimilation occurs with the word bags , since the s becomes voiced like the g .
  • In anticipatory (or regressive ) assimilation , the first sound is similar to the second sound. That is, the Assimilandum precedes the Assimilans. This happens, for example, with the pronunciation [ ˈʊŋˌgarn ] for Hungary . Here is n as velares [⁠ ŋ ⁠] made, because the g is also velar. An adjustment to the following sounds can also be found in German / fynf /, colloquially [fyɱf].
  • Reciprocal assimilation : Mutual influencing of two sounds (consecutive perservation and anticipation or vice versa):

• nhd. <haben> ['ha: bn̩ ]> [' ha: bm̩ ] (> [ha: ])> [ha: m ]

First, perseverative assimilation creates [bm] from [bn], because the characteristic is retained bilabially by the voiced plosive [b] and thus the bilabial nasal [m] arises from the alveolar nasal [n]. Then, by anticipating the nasal feature (anticipatory assimilation), [b] becomes the bilabial nasal [m].

Note: The [m] is not implemented as a Geminate in this case ; therefore the spelling [ha: m] is sufficient.

Degree of alignment

  • Total assimilation: the product of assimilation corresponds to the triggering sound.
Example: Classical Latin sub die > Vulgar Latin sud die .
Example: classical Latin quamdiu > vulgar Latin quandius (in contact with the dental consonant / d /, the labial / m / is replaced by the dental / n /).

Distance of the affected sounds

  • Close assimilation (contact assimilation ): The affected sounds are in direct contact.
Example: Latin in balneum > Vulgar Latin: in balneum . The dental / n / becomes the labial / m / through the influence of the labial / b /.
  • Distance assimilation (distance assimilation ): The affected sounds are not adjacent. For example, the umlaut in Old High German gesti ("guests") from the Germanic gasti arose from the fact that the a was raised to an e through the influence of the i .

See also


  • Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler-Lexikon Sprach , 2000.
  • Jörg Meibauer: Introduction to German Linguistics , 2nd edition (2007), p. 97 f.

Individual evidence

  1. Duden online: Assimilation . In the above example, it is a progressive, total contact assimilation.