Assimilation of Voicing

Another type of assimilation which is very important is that of voicing. The vibration of the vocal cords is not something that can be switched on and off very swiftly, as a result groups of consonants tend to be either all voiced or all voiceless. Consider the different endings of ‘dogs’ /dɒgz/ and ‘cats’ /kæts/, of the past forms of the regular verbs such as ‘kissed’ /st/ and ‘sneezed’ /sni:zd/. In these cases the fact of the final consonant of a word being voiced or not determines the choice of whether the suffix will be voiced or voiceless. In the case of the suffixes for plural nouns, for  the third person singular in the present simple, for regular verbs in the past simple and for the genitive the application of this rule is predictable, with only a few exceptions (e.g. leaf ® leaves). However, assimilation of voicing can radically change the sound of several common constructions:

1. Have to

have to  /hæv tu:/ 

become

/hæftə/ 
has to   /hæz tu:/  /hæstə/ 

 

I have to go!    /aɪ ˈhæftə ˈgəʊ/

 

 

2. Used to

used to  /ju:zd  tu:/ 

becomes

/ju:stə/ 

 

I used to live near you.     /aɪ ju:stə ˈlɪv nɪə ˈju:/

          Here assimilation has taken place twice, first on the /d/ and then on the /z/. A common mistake that Italian speakers make in English is to use constructions like: *‘In my country we use to eat a lot on Christmas day’, intending to convey information about present habits/customs. Not only is this an inappropriate translation of an Italian construction, it is also misleading   - an English speaker will interpret it as referring to the past, as if it were /ju:stə/ . In English the simple present automatically indicates that the action is a present habit/custom – ‘In my country we eat a lot on Christmas day’ is quite sufficient.

3. Supposed to

Supposed to  /ˈpəʊzd tu:/ 

becomes

 /ˈpəʊstə/  

 

You were supposed to leave! /ju: wə səˈpəʊstə ˈli:v/ 

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