English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

How do people choose to pronounce the -agogue suffix in these three words?

  1. pedagogue
  2. pedagogy
  3. pedagogical

The first is a reasonably common word and its suffix is surely consistently pronounced as /əgɒg/ (agog). However, dictionaries suggest that the relevant bits of the other two words can be alternatively pronounced either as /əgɒdʒi///əgäji/ (agoji), or as /agɒgi/ (agogi). In other words, while people always use a hard g for the first g, they might prefer a soft g for the second.

The same can be noted for pronunciations of the various forms of demagogue and synagogue. Why this "discrepancy"? How do people decide to choose the hard or soft g for such uncommon words? It might be *cough* logical to conclude that people who choose the soft g do so due to their familiarity with the French-influenced -logy suffix. However, I personally pronounce pedagogical with a hard g due to my preceding use of another hard g.

Or is this simply an AmE-BrE divide?

share|improve this question
It is a question of analogy. The soft g is standard in -logy and -logic and -logical, and regular (palatalized before front vowels). I'd bet moreover that most of those words were established before the corresponding terms in -og, -ogue entered the language, probably mostly as back-formations. They're at least far more common - how many times have you read of a geologue or a neurolog?! – StoneyB Feb 21 '13 at 19:46
@StoneyB But none of those examples have a g following another, i.e., gog. My question is on the inconsistency of the pronunciations. – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 19:48
Only the first has -agogue; the others have -agogy and -agogical, so this does not make sense. I still do not understand what sound /ä/ is intended to represent. A centralized /a/? That’s not a phoneme in English, and is at most an allophone of some phoneme. Hey, you aren’t Australian, are you? – tchrist Feb 21 '13 at 19:49
Well, here are some more - mostly new coinages, but anagogy and apagogy and mystagogy at least have been around for awhile. And in any case, the analogical palatalization operates only the 'g' before 'y' or 'i'. – StoneyB Feb 21 '13 at 20:03
@tchrist It's possible that Crocodile Dundee had a bigger impact on America than first thought. The /ä/ was lifted right out of ODO (AmE) :) – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 20:19

With all the words you mention, the normal rule applies. Barring some sort of exception, then, whenever the g is followed by an e, i, or y, one follows the standard pronunciation rule that it is pronounced like the j in jet (/dʒ/), not like the g in get (/g/).

It is also true that once upon a time, long ago and far away, words like hypnagogic at one point did once have a hard g there. Same thing with words like œsophageal/oesophageal/esophageal.

But not even physicians do that any longer. People will think you’ve made a mistake if you use a /g/ instead of a /dʒ/ in words like those.

share|improve this answer
+1 And the older words, which established the pattern, came into English not directly from Greek but through Latin, which had palatalized the 'g' even before it reached Old French. – StoneyB Feb 21 '13 at 20:06
hmm, I see. Yet ODO lists the hard g variant as an acceptable alternative. How about the OED? (I find the use of the soft g quite unsettling in words such as pedagogy and pedagogism.) – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 20:14
@coleopterist For pedagogic and hypnagogic, the OED gives only the so-called soft-g sound. For pedagogy is admits a hard-g as the final of three alternatives. For pedagogism, it says you must have meant to spell it pedagoguism. :) The gu- makes it hard. Similarly with words like synagoguing and pedagoguish. Oh drat, you just made me discover that caccagogue and copragogue are words! – tchrist Feb 21 '13 at 20:22
@tchrist jeje! I fell through the same rabbit hole and ran into galactagogue and ochlagogue. – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 20:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.