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A Phonological Question - ん/m Merger in Japanese
Hi. I came to realize that in japanese ん sometimes becomes m in pronounciation. If ん comes before b or p in a word it sometimes becomes m. For examples

新聞 : Read as shimbun
かんぱい : Read as kampai
コンビニ: Sometimes read as kombini
日本橋 : Even metro official writing with romaji was with m, nihombashi

But another thing is this merger is not unique for japanese. In my native Turkish this happens sometimes too. Most common would be people saying Istambul with m instead of an Istanbul.

Also in Arabic. In Ilm-i Tacweed. There is rule called Iqlab that morphs all these n into m. 

Maybe in English too. We don't say inpossible its impossible. Maybe English already solved that problem. (Inbred?? i cant imagine it said with m. Why??)

Another thing i realized that in Japanese and Arabic ん is more nasal than Turkish. And English has the weakest nasalisation.

My point is. Did this start happening in modern times because of strong nasalisation. Or Old Japanese had a m letter as a CVC consonant but it became obsolote. Or in older times they had this merger and it survived with oral traditions.

I know this is a really different question. Phonology is a whole different aspect of language. All answers are appreciated.


Sep 22, 2016 5:38 AM
Comments · 2
This is called assimilation. It's quite a common phonological process and can be found in many languages all over the world. It basically means that a sound changes to becomes more similar to another nearby sound (which generally makes it require less effort to pronounce). The assimilation of nasal consonants to the place of articulation of a following consonant is a very common form of assimilation; it may then become formalised in the language (as in "impossible" where the original prefix "in-" is written "im-"), or may remain a colloquial pronunciation (as in "inbred", where the "in-" prefix is pronounced with an /n/ only in careful speech, in normal speech it is pronounced with /m/). As you said, iqlab is another good example of this, and there is another example of a different kind of assimilation in Arabic too: the sun letters, here the manner of articulation of ل changes to assimilate to a following consonant which has the same place of articulation.
September 22, 2016

Now you put it like that i figured that both Turkish and Arabic are overflowing with assimilastions

Turkish p,ç,t,k becoming b,c,d,g,ğ and vice versa all the time. Konuş-dum>Konuştum. Fıstık-ı>Fıstığı.

Arabic Idgam-ı Shemsiyye, wahid becoming ittihad instead of iwtihad, قول becoming قال etc.

Thank you for your explanation.

September 22, 2016
Language Skills
Arabic, English, Japanese, Turkish
Learning Language
Arabic, Japanese