Double assimilation

/kʊdnt/ → /kʊbm/, /wʊdnt/ → /wʊbm/, etc.


The assimilated new phoneme can produce a domino effect  which triggers further processes of assimilation. This gives rise to very interesting cases, not at all infrequent.

Have a look at this example:


sound_loud_speaker I couldn’t be more pleased. |aɪ ˈkʊdnt bi ˈmɔː ˈpliːzd|


Now follow the different stages of the process:

  1. First, the /t/ dissapears, which can happen because of elision -the article about elision is not written yet, but coming soon- or just because the /t/ is frequently dropped in negative contractions.
  2. Then the /n/ becomes a /m/because, now we no longer have a /t/, it is followed by a bilabial /b/.
  3. Finally, the /d/ is turned into a /b/ because now the next sound is a bilabial /m/.
  4. So, /kʊdnt/ becomes /kʊbm/.


sound_loud_speaker I couldn’t be more pleased. |aɪ ˈkʊbm bi ˈmɔː ˈpliːzd|


And here there are some examples from real life:


sound_loud_speaker And some people thought, It couldn’t be (Julian Barnes, Agony Column).

sound_loud_speaker And couldn’t believe that, actually, they put people’s lives in danger as well (Therese Gannon, BBC4).

sound_loud_speaker My take on this is that, had the potato not failed again in the summer of 1846, we wouldn’t be here talking about the famine at all (Cormac Ó Gráda, BBC4; notice that he’s an Irish speaker of English).


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