The assimilation is the result of the action of assimilating. This verb can be used in various fields, referring to understanding some data to integrate it with previous knowledge or to incorporate certain components into a whole.
In biology, the notion of assimilation is associated with a process of metabolism that consists of synthesizing complex molecules using other molecules with a simpler structure.
The food assimilation, in this sense, is the transformation of proteins, carbohydrates and other food components in substances that can be absorbed by the body.
The genetic assimilation, moreover, is the procedure developed from natural selection and consisting of a phenotypic response to an environmental component. Thanks to this process, the genotype assimilates the environment factor and turns its response into something independent of the environment.
It is possible to speak of cultural assimilation when a community or collectivity is integrated into a majority (dominant) group and acquires the same characteristics or customs. In this way, the community that is integrated into the largest one ends up losing or relegating its specificity.
It should be noted that, with similar meanings, the concept of assimilation is also used in the fields of psychology and linguistics.
In everyday language, finally, the idea of assimilation is associated with comprehension or understanding of information. For example: “The children are trying very hard, but they have not yet assimilated the most difficult contents of the program”, “Once you assimilate the message, you will be able to provide an answer according to their needs”.
Phonetic assimilation is a process that involves the pronunciation of a part of a word adapting and giving rise to a new sound, easier to pronounce according to the context, either by adjacent or nearby segments. For example, the terms judge and even, which are not particularly difficult to pronounce, evolved from judgar and hadta, respectively. Note that if this adaptation had not occurred, its articulation in our language would be complicated.
Phonetic assimilation can occur under different conditions (closeness or adjacency) and also occur because of the previous word (in this case it is called progressive) or with respect to the later word (regressive). Since the terms progressive and regressive generate some confusion, there are alternative names for these concepts, such as being anticipatory or from right to left and preservative or from left to right, respectively.
Combining the ideas of adjacency and closeness with the types of progressive and regressive assimilation, the following four possible situations can be distinguished:
* regressive by adjacency: it is also called anticipatory and occurs if a phoneme uses phonetic features for its articulation that are immediately after;
* adjacency progressive: occurs when the articulation of a phoneme is carried out using features of the one that precedes it directly;
* regressive by proximity: similar to regressive assimilation by adjacency, but using a phoneme that is not directly after the affected one;
* Progressive by proximity: similar to progressive assimilation by adjacency, but using a phoneme that does not directly precede the main one.
Globally, both cases of adjacency assimilation occur more frequently than the other two, and the least common is the progressive by proximity. Finally, there is a type of assimilation called reciprocal, which takes place when two adjacent phonemes show this phenomenon (the first in a progressive way and the last one, regressively). If reciprocal assimilation results in a single segment with some of the features of each component, it is called fusion or coalescence.