Why B Silent?

“All my life, without a douBt I’ll give you, All my life..”

If not for the B, he must have been the heartthrob of the singing contest. Yes, he’s tall, handsome, and quite young with a deep voice YET with a loud B before his T.  T, an unvoiced consonant, forces B to lose its voice. Simply, T silenced B. Say these words ignoring B: subtle, debt, doubt, doubtful. The fancier (technical) term for this process is regressive assimilation (right quiets left).

Its opposite? Glad you asked- progressive assimilation (left quiets right). In example: bomb, comb, climb, dumb, lamb, limb, numb, plumb,thumb, tomb. But why does B have to lose its sound? Always scared of its fellow consonants?


Every language seeks to be easily spoken – assimilation just aids to do that. On the chart, B and T are both plosive (sounds are produced without airflow), while B and M are both bilabial (upper and lower lips touch) and voiced consonants.  Neighboring letters affect each other, B keeps quiet so T could be sounded. The case of M and B is quite problematic, M can only be sounded by letting the air flow through the nose, while with B, no air should flow at all.  Assimilation decides who’d win: M.

The next time someone ever asks you, just don’t say B is a silent letter. Tell its toilsome tale of frequently adapting to its neighbors. 😉

(Note that Assimilation is used here in the context of Linguistics, not Piaget’s Cognitivist Theory.)

3 responses

  1. Rod Asturias Avatar
    Rod Asturias

    parang namiss ko bigla mag-aral dahil dito, hehehe. Though ndi naman ganito ka-technical napag aralan ko sa english hehehe. Nakakamiss din pala kahit nakakatamad dati 🙂

  2. haha.. best in English under Ms. Amador, right?

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