Definition of assimilation
- The clash of lifestyles has made assimilation difficult.
- the usual assimilation of \z\ to \sh\ in the phrase his shoe
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Acculturation is one of several forms of culture contact, and has a couple of closely related terms, including assimilation and amalgamation. Although all three of these words refer to changes due to contact between different cultures, there are notable differences between them. Acculturation is often tied to political conquest or expansion, and is applied to the process of change in beliefs or traditional practices that occurs when the cultural system of one group displaces that of another. Assimilation refers to the process through which individuals and groups of differing heritages acquire the basic habits, attitudes, and mode of life of an embracing culture. Amalgamation refers to a blending of cultures, rather than one group eliminating another (acculturation) or one group mixing itself into another (assimilation).
There are a handful of words in English that are examples of themselves, representatives of the very things that they describe. One such word is sesquipedalian ("having many syllables" or "characterized by the use of long words"). Another example, in a slightly less obvious fashion, is assimilate. When used as a technical word to describe a certain process of language change, assimilate refers to the habit that some sounds have of becoming more like the sounds that are close to them in a word (see assimilation, sense 3). For instance, the original spelling of immovable in English was inmovable, and over time the n began to sound more like its neighboring m, to the point that it actually became that letter.
Something similar occurred before assimilate was a word in English. Assimilate comes from the Latin prefix ad- (meaning "to, towards") and similis ("similar"). Over time the d of the prefix ad- assimilated itself with the s of similis.
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