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Assimilation is a sound change process by which one (neighboring) segment causes another segment to become phonetically more similar to it in some way.


In English the alveolar nasal of the prefix /in-/ changes to [l] in illegal (complete convergence) and to [m] in input (partial convergence). In the latter case the change is from alveolar to labial under influence of the neighbouring labial segment [p]. When assimilation takes place between two vowels it is more commonly referred to as vowel harmony.

Term properties

The relational adjective is assimilatory.


Assimilatory changes can be classified according to the following dichotomies:

Other languages

German Assimilation (de)


  • Campbell, Lyle & Mauricio J. Mixco. 2007. A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
  • Crowley, Terry. 1997. An introduction to historical linguistics 3rd ed. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  • Kiparsky, Paul. 2003. The phonological basis of sound change. In Handbook of historical linguistics, ed. by Brian D. Joseph and Richard D. Janda, 313–342. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • McMahon, April M.S. 1994. Understanding language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.