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Let us take, ginger, we actually pronounce it as /ˈdʒɪndʒə/ (jinjer). But take, giggling, we pronounce it as /ˈɡɪɡ(ə)lɪŋ/. There are numerous examples of this, and this confuses me a lot. So, how do I know which pronunciation in these kinds of words is actually correct?

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    English orthography does not attempt to represent the sounds of English speech in any kind of one-to-one relationship. There are quite simply no hard-and-fast rules. Also, unless by ginning you’re referring to the archaic, poetic variant of beginning, that too is pronounced as ‘jinning’. Feb 20, 2014 at 17:15
  • I don't know what "ginning" is, except as related to the word "gin" in which case it is also pronounced with a "j" sound. Feb 20, 2014 at 17:15
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    @DigitalChris - 'ginning' could be running a load of cotton through a cotton gin. As to the rest, I know of no rule as to when g's are hard or soft.
    – Oldcat
    Feb 20, 2014 at 17:51

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There are no strict rules for when the letter <G> is pronounced /dʒ/ as in ginger and when it is pronounced /g/ as in giggle. In general, it is more likely to be pronounced to /dʒ/ if it is followed by <I>, <E> or <Y>, but there are many exceptions.

If you're unsure about a word, you have to look it up in a dictionary and memorize it.

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  • Letters are not pronounced; letters are read. It's phonemes that are pronounced. If you stop thinking of letters as representing sounds, you'll do better. Feb 20, 2014 at 18:33
  • @JohnLawler this is a distinction I long ago gave up on trying to make for a nontechnical audience. Insisting on making it just makes you sound cranky
    – nohat
    Feb 20, 2014 at 18:35
  • So continue, if you like. Nontechnical audiences don't deserve to know facts, after all; they're content with their prejudices already. Feb 20, 2014 at 18:39
  • To my mind, someone who is asking about which pedal makes the car accelerate and which makes it slow down doesn't really need a preliminary lecture on relativity or how internal combustion engines work.
    – nohat
    Feb 20, 2014 at 18:44
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    I asked a question previously english.stackexchange.com/questions/88238/… and the answer was that there is a way to guess based on spelling whether the vowel from a word with UL would be STRUT or FOOT. Sometimes there is a way to predict; sometimes there is not.
    – nohat
    Feb 20, 2014 at 23:10

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