Sandhi (Sanskrit: saṃdhi "joining") is a cover term for a wide variety of phonological processes that occur at morpheme or word boundaries (thus belonging to what is called morphophonology). 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, 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 is a kind of external sandhi, as is the process called liaison in the French language 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 and syntactic environments) and, over time, turn into consonant mutations.
Most tonal languages have tone sandhi, 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.
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