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13.6: Full and Partial Assimilation

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

1. When the consonant sound and letter at the end of the prefix change to be exactly the same as the sound and letter at the beginning of the stem, the process is called full assimilation. In many words the consonant sound and letter in the prefix change enough to be more similar to the sound and letter at the beginning of the stem but not exactly like it. This process is called partial assimilation. For instance, com + crete = com + n + crete = concrete. Like full assimilation, partial assimilation makes the word easier to pronounce.

2. All of the following words contain the prefix com-. Sometimes the prefix and stem combined by simple addition, sometimes by full assimilation, sometimes by partial assimilation. Analyze each one to show the process involved when the prefix and stem combined:

Word Prefix + Stem
college com + l + lege
conscious com + n + scious
commentary com + mentary
congress com + n + gress
collapsed com + l + lapsed
confession com + n + fession
correctly com + r + rectly
contracts com + n + tracts
companion com + panion
correspondent com + r + respondent
community com + munity
condemned com + n + demned
complexion com + plexion
conscience com + n + science
commission com + mission
conventional com + n + ventional
consistent com + n + sistent
committee com + mittee
compelling com + pelling
collected com + l + lected

2. The following words contain some special cases of partial assimilation. Analyze each one as best you can and be ready to talk about why you think these words are spelled the way they are:

Acquaintance, acquire, acquiesce, and acquit contain a partially assimilated form of the prefix ad- and stems that star with <qu>. Analyze them:

Word Prefix + Stem
acquaintance ad + c + quaintance
acquire ad + c + quire
acquiesce ad + c + quiesce
acquit ad + c + quit

3. Ecstasy contains a partially assimilated form of the prefix ex- and a stem that starts with <s>:

Word Prefix + Stem
ecstasy ex + c + stasy

4. When the last consonant in a prefixes changes to be exactly like the first consonant in the stem, the process is called full assimilation. When the last consonant in a prefix changes to be more like, but not exactly like, the first consonant in the stem, the process is called partial assimilation.

Teaching Notes.

Item 1. The increased ease of pronunciation has to do essentially with the position in the mouth in which adjacent sounds are pronounced: The [m] in com- is a bilabial sound, pronounced out at the lips. The [k] at the front of crete is a velar sound, pronounced back deep in the mouth, at the velum. From the lips to the velum is a long movement. By changing the [m] to an [n], which is an alveolar sound, pronounced with the tongue against the back of the tooth ridge, the movement is shortened and pronunciation eased.

Item 2. The discussion should bear on how <dk> would be a difficult sequence, but <qq> is not allowed in our language, so we use hard <c>, spelling the same [k] as does <q>. Another way of saying it is that <cq> is a kind of double-<q>. The base in acquaint is quaint which is a Middle English respelling of an Old French that came from Latin and carries the root meaning “know.” Acquaint comes from the same Latin word that gave us recognize and cognitive. The development of senses in quaint is a tangled and somewhat obscure story, told well in the OED .

The base quire in acquire comes from a Latin word that meant “to seek, to seek to obtain, to make inquiry about” and also gave us the words query and question. The base in acquiesce is qui, which carries the root meaning “quiet” and is closely related to quiescent and quiet. The base of acquit is the free base quit and carries the root meaning “free, clear.”

Item 3. The base of ecstasy is stas “to place, to cause to stand.” The prefix ex-, of course, means “out.” So the sense of ecstasy is close to our phrases like “out of his mind” or an “out of body experience.” Ecstasy comes from a Greek word that meanit “trance, distaction.”

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Date Created:
Oct 09, 2015
Last Modified:
Jun 02, 2016
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