English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

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

Over time, I have heard people pronounce the "n" on words like "known" (NO-en) and "pattern" (PAT-r-en), as though it were a separate syllable. The instances of my hearing such have been rare ones, but I can't help but think this is a remnant of some regional dialect, or perhaps due to European roots.

Where did this pronunciation originate?

share|improve this question
I've never heard this before. Are these people you heard it from non-native speakers? speakers from a particular dialect? on TV? From your area? please specify. – Mitch Nov 7 '12 at 15:43
I used to work with a lot of Irish folk and they always pronounced pattern as "pattren". I've never heard anyone else use it that way. – djm Nov 12 '12 at 15:38
I'm Irish and I say "patt-er-en" and "fill-em". – Baz Nov 14 '12 at 13:58
That extra schwa is very common in New Zealand English en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_English – Kyudos Jan 28 '13 at 21:52
The technical term for slipping an extra vowel (usually a shwa in English) before a final resonant, or anywhere else in a word, is Epenthesis /ɛ'pɛnθəsɪs/, and the extra vowel is called an Epenthetic /ɛpən'θɛtɪk/ vowel. The automnemonic for Epenthesis is Epenethesis /ɛpən'ɛθəsɪs/. – John Lawler Oct 9 '13 at 19:14

I was brought up in North Essex (proper Essex, not that stuff near London they make jokes about). We always pronounced know-en as two syllables. The same goes for similar words. I still pronounce it that way, even though others look at me strangely. I think it goes back to the East Saxon dialect. I'm patriotic!

share|improve this answer

This seems to be two separate phenomena, with different origins.

From the other answers, in some Irish dialects, words ending in consonant clusters such as -rn and -lm have the n and m pronounced as a separate syllable. This may be a hold-over from earlier English pronunciation. Apparently Shakespeare sometimes spelled "film" as phillum, so it appears he pronounced film this way. See the comments for this Language Log post. (Although it's possible both the one- and two-syllable pronunciations were used in Shakespeare's time, and he chose the two-syllable one for the sake of the meter).

The other phenomenon is restricted to past participles. I do it for past participles such as known, grown, thrown, mown, hewn, strewn (so mown is pronounced as in Moe 'n Larry). This is pure speculation on my part, but it's possible that this originated with German immigrants—in German, irregular verbs all have past participles that either end with 't' or 'en' (except for tun, with past participle getan). So for a German learning English, it would be natural to pronounce these past participles as if they ended with en.

share|improve this answer
It doesn’t necessarily have to come from German—the normal passive participle marker for strong verbs in English is also -en whenever an unacceptable final cluster would otherwise arise, i.e., everywhere except after vowels (including diphthongs) and r. There was originally an e there, but it’s been syncopated away where possible. There could be dialects that did not take part in this syncope, or (more likely, I think) certain dialects could have reintroduced it analogically. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 10 '13 at 22:37

I'm hearing "NO-un" working with Chicagoans who lean more to the Wisconsin accent.

share|improve this answer
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – MrHen Oct 9 '13 at 23:34

Usually these types of words come from ancient times (Middle English, Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic). So for a word like known that comes from knowen (pronounced something like NOu-En), some people tend to do the emphasis as it would in former times.

I have also seen this type of behavior in foreign speakers… like myself.

share|improve this answer
There were many more forms than just knownen in Middle English. Why would this be the one that got kept? It seems a little too "just so" for my liking. – Matt E. Эллен Nov 13 '12 at 15:17

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.