An ELT Glossary : Assimilation

Definition: The way that, in connected speech, a speech sound changes quality and becomes more like another sound which precedes or follows it so that the two sounds become easier to pronounce together. 

  • In "fruit buns" the alveolar /t/ will change to a bilabial /p/ in order to have the same place of articulation as the following bilabial /b/ : /fru:p bʌnz/
  • Similarly, in "good cook" the alveolar /d/ changes to a velar /g/ before the velar /k/ :   /gʊg kʊk/
In English, assimilation is nearly always regressive (ie the second sound causes the first to change).

Check Your Understanding

To check your understanding, try the tasks in the section on assimilation in the Language Matters post on Connected Speech.


Follow-up Reading

Try the following reading if this area is still a problem :

Celce-Murcia et al Teaching Pronunciation CUP pp. 159-162. Use the search box, entering assimilation.