Consonant influences consonant.

In Modern English it is mainly consonants that are assimilated

The Indication of assimilation The preceding sound The following sound The type of assimilation
1. Modification of the place of obstruction and the active organs of speech. 1. alveolar [t, d, n, l, s, z]   2. alveolar [t, d]   3.bilabial [m] alveolar [n]     4. Interdental [θ, ð]   Interdental [θ, ð]   post-alveolar [r]   labio-dental [f, v]   post-alveolar [r] Regressive: Alveolar → dental   Regressive: Alveolar → post-alv   Regressive: Bilabial → lab-dent Alveolar → lab-dent   Progressive: Post-alv →alveolar
2. Changes in the work of the vocal cords (voicing and devoicing)   Notes: 1. There is no voicing or devoicing of final consonants. 2. Remember! ['ænikdout] ['bə:θdei] ['obstinit] ['medsin] [lets gou] ['æbsənt] 1. voiceless consonants [s, p, t, k, f, θ, ò]     2. voiced consonants and vowels -voiceless consonants -[s, z, ò, d3]   3.-voiced consonants and vowels -voiceless consonants -[t, d] Sonorants [m, n, l, r, j, w]   suffix -s -[z]     -[s]   -[iz]   suffix -ed -[d]   -[t] -[id] Progressive: Sonorants → partially devoiced   Progressive voicing or devoicing   Progressive voicing or devoicing
3. Changes in the lip position. Any consonant Bilabial [w] Regressive: consonants become lip-rounded
4. Changes in the manner of the release of plosives. 1. plosives [p, b, t, d, k, g]     2. plosives [p, b, t, d, k, g]   3. plosives [p, b, t, d, k, g]   4. plosives [p, b, t, d, k, g] Plosives [p, b, t, d, k, g] and affricates   fricatives [s, z, θ, ð, f, v]   nasal sonorants [m, n]   lateral sonorant [l] Regressive: plosives lose their plosion (the loss of plosion (or incomplete implosion) Regressive: plosives lose their plosion (the fricative plosion) Regressive: plosives lose their plosion (the nasal plosion) Regressive: the plosives lose their plosion (the lateral plosion)


Loss of Plosion. When the plosives meet together within a word the first plosive loses its plosion. The plosion is heard when we pronounce the second plosive.

Nasal Plosion. When the plosives meet with the nasal sonorants the articulation of the sonorants begins when the articulation of the plosives is not finished yet. As a result the air goes through the nose.

Lateral Plosion. When the plosives meet with the lateral sonorant [l] the plosion is heard during the pronunciation of the sonorant as the air passes along the sides of the tongue.

Fricative Plosion. When the plosives are followed by the fricatives there is a loss of aspiration and a release of the first sound during the pronunciation of the second sound.


Difficult consonant clusters.

In the clusters of consonants the place of articulation of which is only slightly different (v-w, f-w, s-θ, z-ð) care should be taken to preserve the quality of each of the adjacent sounds and to avoid the wrong assimilation.


Degree of completeness.

Assimilation is called complete when two adjoining sound become alike or merge into one (cupboard). Assimilation is incomplete, when the likeness of the adjoining sounds is partial as the assimilated sound retains its major articulatory features (sweet).

Degree of stability.

We distinguish obligatory (historical) and non-obligatory (characteristic of fluent or careless speech) assimilation. Non-obligatory assimilation should be avoided by public speakers.

Non-obligatory assimilation.

Accidental or positional assimilations at word boundaries are made by English people in rapid colloquial speech. The alveolar consonants in word final position often assimilate to the place of articulation of the following word initial consonant: before p, b, m the consonant t changes into p, d changes into b, n changes into m. These cases need not be necessarily imitated by foreign learners of English.




Elision means the dropping of a sound or sounds, either within a word or at a junction of words in rapid colloquial speech. Formal speech tends to retain the full form under the influence of spelling.

  1. A group of consonants may be reduced by an elision. We find an elision of t and d between two other consonants: friends [frenz], [frendz] is also possible.
  2. Pronouns with the initial h and the auxiliaries have, has, had lose h when they are unstressed within an utterance. [h] is pronounced in those words when they are initial in an utterance or when they are stressed.
  3. Clusters of two identical consonants: a double consonant at a word junction must not be reduced by elision (what time). The two consonants should be run together smoothly without a break.
  4. The elision of a consonant of a boundary cluster is regarded as a vulgarism (wonna, gonna, lemme, gimme).

In the following words the form reduced by elision is used in all kinds of speech:

Handbag, sandwich, handsome, grandchildren, grandparents, grandmother, landscape, landlord, grandfather, grandson, father and mother, brother and sister, here and there, bread and butter (in all these cases we observe the elision of [d]).


  1. The reduction of some consonant clusters was established long ago. The initial w (write), k (know), g (gnaw) may be dropped.
  2. The final b is dropped in the cluster [mb]: climb.
  3. We say [ofn] in rapid colloquial speech and ['oftən] in careful, precise speech.
  4. The plosives [t] and [d] in the clusters [-st, -ft, -nd, ld, zd, etc.] in final position when followed by a word with an initial consonant are often reduced in rapid speech [la:s taim].




[P, t, k] in initial position in a stressed syllable are accompanied by aspiration, i.e. a strong puff of breath in a voiceless interval after the explosion of [p, t, k] before a vowel. Aspiration is very strong before a strong long vowel or a diphthong; it is weaker before a short vowel. It is less noticeable before an unstressed vowel. If plosives are preceded by s there is hardly any aspiration at all.


Palatalization is the process of softening of a consonant before front vowels, when the front part of the tongue is raised to the hard palate. It should be remembered that English consonants (except ) are not palatalized, but before front, close or mid-level vowels they are a bit clearer than before back vowels. To avoid Palatalization it should be kept in mind that the front part of the tongue should be raised only when the articulation of the consonant is accomplished.

The notion of dark and clear [l].

When pronounced before consonants and in final positions l is dark (in such cases the back part of the tongue is raised to the soft palate giving a dark to the sound).

When l occurs before vowels or the sonorant [j] it is clear (together with the tip of the tongue the front part of the tongue is raised to the hard palate).

Linking r.

When a word ending in [ ] is immediately followed by a word beginning with a vowel, the sound [r] is very often inserted at the end of it, joining it to the next word. When the ordinary spelling of the word ends in the letter r or re, the inserted r-sound is called a linking [r]. When there is no written r in spelling, the inserted r-sound is called an intrusive [r] (the idea [r] of it). Learners of English are generally not recommended to use intrusive [r], while the linking [r] is recognized as a typical feature of English Standard Pronunciation.




Reduction is a historical process of weakening, shortening and disappearance of vowel sounds in unstressed positions. The neutral sound represents the reduced form of almost any vowel in the unstressed position ([kəm'bain]), besides, the sounds [i] and [u] in the suffix ful are very frequent realizations of the unstressed positions (['bju:tiful]). There is also a tendency to retain the quality of the unstressed vowel sound (retreat, programme).

Non-reduced unstressed vowels are often retained in:

1) compound words (blackboard);

2) borrowings from other languages (kolkhoz).

Reduction is closely connected with word stress, rhythm and sentence-stress. Stressed words are pronounced with greater energy of breath. Regular loss of sentence-stress of certain words is connected with partial or complete loss of their lexical significance. These words play the part of form-words in a sentence. So reduction is realized in unstressed syllables within words and in unstressed form-words, auxiliary and modal verbs, personal and possessive pronouns within intonation groups.

There are three types of reduction noticed in English:

  1. Quantitative, that is shortening of a long vowel in the unstressed position ([hi: -hi].
  2. Qualitative, that is obscuration of vowels towards [ə, i, u], affects both long and short vowels ([kæn-kən]).

Vowels in unstressed form-words in most cases undergo both qualitative and quantitative reduction ([tu:-tu-tə]).

  1. Elision of vowels in the unstressed position (Im [aim]).


Strong and weak forms.


Words Strong forms Weak, reduced forms
the ði: ðə + C; ði + V
a ei + C; æn + V ə + C; ən + V
at æt ət
from from frəm
of ov əv
to tu: tə + C; tu + V
into intu: intə + C; intu + V
for fo: + C; fo:r + V fə + C; fər + V
you ju: ju
he hi: hi, i
she ò i: ò i
we wi: wi˙, wi
me mi: mi˙, mi
her hə: + C; hə:r + V hə˙, hə, ə + C; hər, ər + V
his hiz iz
him him im
us ^s əs, s
them ðem ðəm, əm
your jo: + C; jo:r +V jo˙, jo, jə +C; jo˙, jo, jə +V
our auə +C; auər + V aə +C; aər + V
be bi: bi
been bi:n bin
am æm əm
are a: +C; a:r +V a˙, ə +C; a˙r, ər +V
is iz iz, z, s
was woz wəz
were wə: +C; wə:r +V wə +C; wər +V
have hæv həv, əv, v
has hæz həz, əz, z/s
had hæd həd, əd, d
can kæn kən, kn
could kud kəd, kd
must m^st məst, məs
will wil l
would wud wəd, əd, d
shall òæl òəl, l
should òud òəd, òd
do du: du˙, du, də
does d^z dəz
and ænd ənd, ən, n
that ðæt ðət
but b^t bət
than ðæn ðən, ðn
as æz əz
or o: +C; o:r +V o˙, o, ə +C; o˙r, or, ə +V
to tu: tə+C; tu +V
there ðeə ðə +C; ðər +V

Words which bear the major part of information are generally stressed and are called content (or notional) words (nouns adjectives, notional verbs, adverbs, numerals, interrogative and demonstrative pronouns (in the function of the subject of a sentence). The other words in a sentence are mostly form (or structural) words which link the content words and in this way help to form an utterance (articles, prepositions, conjunctions, particles, auxiliary and modal verbs, personal and possessive pronouns). They are normally unstressed in a sentence, their weak reduced forms are generally used in speech.

Strong and weak forms.

Prepositions have their strong forms though they might remain unstressed:

1) at the very end of an intonation group or phrase (What are you looking at?).

2) at the end of an intonation group or phrase when they are followed by the unstressed pronoun (I am not `talking to you).

Polysyllabic prepositions followed by a pronoun at the end of a phrase are stressed as rule (Have a look `under it).

Auxiliary and modal verbs have their strong forms:

1) at the end of an intonation group or phrase whether stressed or not (Mary has [hæz].);

2) at the beginning of general and alternative questions in careful colloquial style (Can [kæn] you get it by tomorrow?);

3) in contracted negative forms (I dont [dount] know the man.).

The following form-words should be remembered as having no weak forms: what, where, when, how, which, on, in, with, then.

The verb to have used as a content verb in the meaning of to possess has no weak forms.

The demonstrative pronoun that is never reduced, while the conjunction that is. Neither are reduced the absolute forms of possessive pronouns.

All the form words, auxiliary and modal verbs, personal and possessive pronouns are generally stressed and consequently have their strong forms in case they become the logical centres of phrases.

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