Sandhi is a cover term for a wide variety of phonological
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

 processes that occur at morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

 or word boundaries (thus belonging to what is called morphophonology
Morphophonology is a branch of linguistics which studies, in general, the interaction between morphological and phonetic processes. When a morpheme is attached to a word, it can alter the phonetic environments of other morphemes in that word. Morphophonemics attempts to describe this process...

). Examples include the fusion of sounds across word boundaries and the alteration of sounds due to neighboring sounds or due to the grammatical function of adjacent words. Sandhi occurs particularly prominently in the phonology of Indian languages (especially Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, which has complex sandhi rules), hence its name, but many other languages have it.


  • Internal sandhi features the alteration of sounds within words at morpheme boundaries, as in sympathy (syn- + pathy).
  • External sandhi refers to changes found at word boundaries, such as in the pronunciation tem books for ten books in some dialects of English. The linking r of some dialects of English
    English language
    English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

     is a kind of external sandhi, as is the process called liaison in the French language
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     and raddoppiamento fonosintattico in Italian.

While it may be extremely common in speech, sandhi (especially for the external) is typically ignored in spelling, as is the case in English, with the exception of the distinction between "a" and "an" (sandhi is, however, reflected in the writing system of both Sanskrit and many other Indian languages, as also in Italian in the case of compound words with lexicalized raddoppiamento fonosintattico). External sandhi effects can sometimes become morphologized, i.e., apply only in certain morphological
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

 and syntactic
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

 environments (e.g., Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

) and, over time, turn into consonant mutation
Consonant mutation
Consonant mutation is when a consonant in a word changes according to its morphological and/or syntactic environment.Mutation phenomena occur in languages around the world. A prototypical example of consonant mutation is the initial consonant mutation of all modern Celtic languages...


Most tonal language
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

s have tone sandhi
Tone sandhi
Tone sandhi is a feature of tonal languages in which the tones assigned to individual words vary based on the pronunciation of the words that surround them in a phrase or sentence. It is a type of sandhi, or fusional change, from the Sanskrit word for "joining".-Languages with tone sandhi:Not all...

, in which the tones of words alter according to pre-determined rules. An example is the behavior of tone 3 in Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin has four tones, and in isolation tone 3 is often pronounced as a falling-rising tone. When a tone 3 occurs before another tone 3, however, it changes into tone 2 (a rising tone), and when occurring before any of the other tones, it is pronounced as a low falling tone, with no rise at the end. A simple example of this occurs in the common greeting nǐ hǎo (with two words containing underlying tone 3), which is normally pronounced as if written ní hǎo.

See also

  • Sanskrit
    Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

  • Alternation (linguistics)
    Alternation (linguistics)
    In linguistics, an alternation is the phenomenon of a phoneme or morpheme exhibiting variation in its phonological realization. Each of the various realizations is called an alternant...

  • Crasis
    Crasis is a type of contraction in which two vowels or diphthongs merge into one new vowel or diphthong — making one word out of two. Crasis occurs in Portuguese and Arabic as well as in Ancient Greek, where it was first described.-French:...

  • Elision
    Elision is the omission of one or more sounds in a word or phrase, producing a result that is easier for the speaker to pronounce...

  • Liaison (French)
  • Linking and intrusive R
  • Nu ephelkustikon
    Nu ephelkustikon
    In Ancient Greek grammar, movable nu or movable N is an ν placed on the end of some grammatical forms in Attic or Ionic Greek. It is used to avoid two vowels in a row or to create a long syllable in poetic meter.-Grammatical forms:...

External links

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