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 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|


This is the type of work I do with my students in my one-to-one classes. I make them practise these processes with exercises until they improve their comprehension of native speakers and are capable of speaking like that themselves. If you are interested in my classes, you can contact me here.

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 | wʊdm bi ˈhɪə | The /d/ is not assimilated in this case (Cormac Ó Gráda, BBC4; notice that he’s an Irish speaker of English).


Now have a look at these examples where the /d/ is dropped because of elision and then the /n/ is assimilated into /m/. As you can see, in the first case the assimilation takes place at word boundaries whereas in the second case it occurs within a single word.

sound_loud_speaker OK, it can happen that someone reads a line with a different inflection or emphasis and then I find myself changing my reading because he’s changed his.  | faɪm maɪˈself | (Cambridge Proficiency test).

sound_loud_speaker “Temporal landmarks help stop the feeling that time’s whizzing by. I bet, for example, you retain memories of events that happen near the beginning or end of term – they’re kind of landmarks – better than those that happened somewhere in between”. “So?” “So establish a few landmarks – remember to mark special events like birthdays properly with some sort of celebration. Notice how the speaker pronounces /ˈlæmmɑːk/ (Cambridge Advanced test).


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