This generalization: In assimilation involving consonant–vowel pairs, the consonant may affect the vowel or the vowel may affect the consonant.

what is an example of this in our English lexicon?

  • 2
    Every syllable in English ending with a nasal consonant /m, n, ŋ/ following a vowel will nasalize that vowel; it's a standard allophone for every vowel because it's a standard practice in speaking English to anticipate the final nasal by opening the velic during the vowel. Sometimes the rest of the nasal is not pronounced, since the nasalization suffices. As for vowels affecting consonants, take a look at any of myriad palatalizations in English, like the /soʒ/ in So's your mother!
    – jlawler
    Dec 7, 2022 at 22:11
  • 2
    @jlawler: And sometimes, nasal vowels will merge when non-nasal vowels do not. In particular, Southern American English pronounces pen and pin identically, while still distinguishing pet and pit.
    – dan04
    Dec 7, 2022 at 23:29
  • 1
    In my idiolect of Australian English, the "pet" vowel merges with the "pal" vowel before "l". So "Mal" and "Mel", "Hal" and "Hell", "JAL" and "gel", "Sal" and "sell", and "shall" and "shell" are all pairs of homophones. It feels very strange to force the "pet" pronunciation of "e" before "l". I carry this over to foreign languages where it causes more confusion than in English. This is a common but not universal property of Australian English. Dec 8, 2022 at 8:47
  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because it appears to be asking us to solve a homework question.
    – Tristan
    Dec 8, 2022 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


Vowels affect consonants: anticipatory labialization of consonants in the onset before a round vowel (cool, code). Progressive unrounding of /ɹʷ/ a.k.a. "r" after an unrounded vowel, in "bear, bare, bar" vs. retention in "poor, pore" as well as in onsets (cry, rip). Consonants affect vowels: /u/ fronts to [ʉ] between coronal consonants (tooth, tutor) though this is more in casual speech. Regressive nasalization of vowels before nasals (can, spam). Flapping (water) is also an assimilation of surrounding vocal tract stricture. However, these are not "in the lexicon", they are in the rule system. "In the lexicon" would presumably be an ancient phonological process that dies out and is just preserved as a lexical tendency, such as the distribution of voiceless vs. voiced fricatives, where formerly voiceless fricatives assimilated to the voicing of surrounding vowels giving cloth (θ) vs clothe (ð).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.