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Feature Synthesis

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Combining the features of two segments to yield a single different segment.


Mutual influence between two speech sounds causes them to fuse and generate a single different sound.


spoon /spun/ [fun]

sleep /slip/ [ɬip]


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As well as progressive and regressive assimilation, there is a third type of assimilation. This occurs when there is a mutual influence between two speech sounds which then fuse to generate a new – different – speech sound. This is known as feature synthesis or coalescence (Table 14).

Table 14. Symbolic representation of feature synthesis

Table 14. Symbolic representation of feature synthesis.

Feature synthesis is an assimilatory process. However, it can (minimally) alter the syllable structure of a word. As such it is arguably not a pure systemic simplification, i.e. a phonological process that does not alter the syllable structure of a word. However, because feature synthesis demonstrates reciprocal assimilation between the segments and the syllable structure changes are slight, we are categorizing it here as a systemic phonological process.

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