1. Words correctly coded tense /i/ sound for "i"
    a) routine /ruːˈtiːn/ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/routine
    b) machine /məˈʃiːn/ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/machine

  2. Words correctly coded lax-nasal /ɪ/ for "i"
    a) big /bɪɡ/ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/big
    b) pin /pɪn/ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pin

  3. This is especially confusing (http://dialectblog.com/2011/11/10/the-western-us-and-velars/)

"The word “English” is the one that causes the most confusion for me in IPA. I regularly see it written in IPA as /ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ/, and although that is much like RP, back in the San Joaquin Valley it’s definitely and clearly /ˈiŋɡlɪʃ/. At the very least, the first “E” and the middle “i” aren’t possibly the same vowel. I also would not call the second vowel /ɨ/, but it’s possible that I have trouble identifying /ɨ/ in my speech anyway (but the Rosa’s/roses difference helps)."

  1. Evidence number 4 , A dictionary that writes it /iːŋk/
    /i/ sound before "ng" and "nk"

  2. YouTube /piŋk/ not /pɪŋk/ song
    Here is a typical American accent where the word "pink " is being used clearly using the /piŋk/ with tense /i/ sound . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asb8N0nz9OI

  3. American Heritage Dictionary Pronunciation key: https://www.ahdictionary.com/application/resources/misc/pronkey.pdf enter image description here

Why is "bee" \bi\ and not \bi:\ ? Because Americans don't see the difference as a lengthening of time but as a change in tone ("tense I vs lax I").

Words like "pink" or "blink" and "English" should use the IPA markers /iŋ/ ; when CLEARLY the "i" in these cases is not the lax /ɪ/ in pin, but CLEARLY is the tense /i/ in machine or the "e" in "evening".


4 Answers 4


When most people speak, I hear the same vowel in pink and pit. There are definitely some people from California who say peenk and keeng. And from the links you give, some people from Michigan do the same thing. For these speakers, the phoneme /ɪ/ changes to /iː/ before /ŋ/. This really isn't a problem for comprehension, because /iːŋ/ isn't present in any English words, so there are no minimal pairs.

In California, many people suspect this is due to the influence of Mexican accents.

At a wild guess, in Michigan it's related to the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

  • 2
    Peter, my question is not about coming across some people who pronounce it /I:/ , I'm referring to just about every movie, TV show, everyone , who pronounce it /i:/ . I gave a link in my question. The pink song. I could give any link to any YouTube video. EVERYONE says /i:/ unless you are claiming that everyone on YouTube and radio and movies are all from California? Commented May 28, 2016 at 8:08
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    It's not only pink , every verb ending in ing and almost , every single English word that has ing or ink, everyone on TV or radio or YouTube, are saying /i:/ . So what is happening has nothing to do with their pronunciation but rather with what sounds you and I are hearing and associating with ing and ink and IPA characters. Commented May 28, 2016 at 8:11
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    I believe that the vast majority of English speakers do not hear what you are hearing. I certainly don't. The way to solve this is to use spectrograms, and see whether for most speakers, the vowel of pink looks different from the vowel of peek. Commented May 30, 2016 at 14:45
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    @JoshuaRobison Everyone very emphatically does not say [i(ː)ŋ]. Like Peter, I have heard (and been utterly bewildered) by a small number of people from California pronouncing it like that (with tensing, with or without lengthening), but the vast majority of speakers that I have ever come across, both American and otherwise, very clear say [ɪŋ] with a short, lax vowel. Saying [iːŋ] sounds decidedly Spanish and non-native to me, and the first couple of times I heard it from native speakers, I wondered if they were perhaps not native speakers after all. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 0:08
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    And for the record, that goes for the YouTube clip you link to in the question as well. The length varies, obviously, to match the tune; but the vowel he sings in the word pink is very clearly a lax [ɪ], not a tense [i]. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 0:12

It would be more internally consistent for IPA to represent English “ing” as /iŋ/.

I have yet to find a word containing “ing” that the vowel sounds more like the /ɪ/ of ship instead of the /i/ of sheep. (Provide examples and I’ll gladly update this answer.) Yes, it’s shorter (in duration), otherwise I’d suggest writing it /iːŋ/.

For those not familiar with IPA, /i/ represents the “English e-letter-name” sound, not the “English I-letter-name” sound which IPA represents as /aɪ/.

Let’s compare seen, sink, and sing.

seen /siːn/ has a long (as in duration) /i/ sound (i.e. English E-letter-name sound). The two dots in IPA indicate this being long in duration.

sink /siŋk/ (or /sink/ ?) has a short (only short as in duration) /i/ (English E-letter-name sound). No dots, because it has a shorter duration.

sing /siŋ/ likewise has a short (as in duration) /i/ (English E-letter-name sound).

I believe that those saying that “ing” should be represented by /ɪŋ/ are focused on the duration of the vowel sound. So, just write /iŋ/ and leave out the double dots, giving you the shorter length but the typical “e-letter-name” sound.

UPDATE: If someone says “fallin’” instead of “falling”, then yes, that sounds like /ɪn/. But it’s still not /ɪŋ/.

  • are you saying that "pick" is /pɪk/ and "peak" is /pik/ ? You are suggesting that the long-e-sound (as in tone) is /i/ , the long-e-sound (as in length) is /iː/ and the short-i-sound (as in tone) is /ɪ/ ? Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 1:50
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    @JoshuaRobison Yes, that's my understanding of IPA. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 18:23
  • @ChristopherBottoms So what do you make of people like JBJ in the comment on the top post above, where he imagines American pink "very clearly" has a /ɪ/? Obviously the dictionaries seem to agree with him but what's wrong with their ears or categorization that they think so? Similarly, every dictionary seems to think the GA pronunciation of Syrian is /sɪriən/ with completely separate vowels. I assume you'd disagree with that as well, but how are they even hearing it that way while still writing the respell form as SEER-ee-uhn?
    – lly
    Commented Apr 12 at 18:35

Hmmm...when is the last time any of you said the word "ink" in a sentence (before reading this question)? The last few instances I can remember myself are:

"The printer needs ink."

"My pen's out of ink."

"Do you sell printer ink?"

Now try saying:

"pink ink"

"color ink"

"squid ink"

"India ink"

Do you pronounce "ink" the same way in each variation of sets? I don't. My twenty-one year-old son doesn't either. We're both "native" speakers, although my mother's English was a heavily "accented" dialect, and I spoke only "twinspeak" for the first few years of my life, so my speech "native"ness and his differ.

But to the point of the OP question, I agree. I think for the sake of standardization, which is the purpose of dictionaries and the like, certain forms become calcified and canonized, and as actual variations continue to shift, the standard form retains tradition and loses correctness.

Check out this speech archive for a cool example of variation collection:


(I heard about the project on NPR - I'll try to find the link.)


  • 8
    You're native speakers from where? What was your mother's accent? I'm from Southern England and my ink sounds the same in all those examples (including "pink ink").
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 5:37
  • 1
    Ah, I must just be a "lazy" American speaker! My mother spoke Filipino English, my father spoke Midwest English (he pronounced "about" as "aboot" and said "gesundheit" whenever someone sneezed), and I grew up in the thick of Italian/Irish/Yiddish/Boston Bluebood dialect-soup region of Massachusetts, while my son grew up in Colorado. (But I do enunciate all the 'r' sounds in "park the car in Harvard yard".). Do you pronounce the "I" in "ink" and "internet" similarly? (I wish I could hear you...)
    – Bea Bonmot
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 6:17
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    @BeaBonmot Yes, ink and internet have the same initial sound (as does initial).
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 8:39
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    @Steven: For the relevant California vowel change (which is present in other areas of the country), it's not Eendia eenk, it's India eenk. Commented May 13, 2016 at 14:46
  • 1
    @Peter Shor--but why? To me, they're the same vowel ("short I"), followed by a nasal. Why alter one, but not the other? Bottom line, in NY, this seems bizarre. No one says eenk unless he's from south of the border. Commented May 14, 2016 at 10:45

Finally a definitive answer!

I realized that Wikipedia, as well as my current school, are using British-based publishing companies as their source.

All I needed to do was find a dictionary by an American publisher.

Here is the definitive explanation by Merriam-Webster.


Page 3, 15th paragraph:

...When it precedes \ŋ\, \i\ is often followed by a \y\ sound. The resulting sound often greatly resembles \ē\ .

Unfortunately, Wikipedia obviously prefers the British reading and the natural American reading is often left secondary or not at all.

I will buy a Merriam-Webster dictionary and use it for my future battles at school. Thank you all for participating in this debate.

I actually saw a detailed explanation, in Japanese in a Japanese dictionary, of American \i\; which explained that the IPA symbols such as \iː\ do not currently support the American reading (they don't have a symbol to differentiate them). Brits actually throw both of the American \i\ tones into the same category and only differentiate the length in time of the sound, whereas Americans categorize \i\ in two tones which we call "long" and "short" (terms that are confusing when British speakers use them to mean something completely different).

I strongly urge that IPA create a symbol for us that reflects our 'i'; where our "long" 'i' represents the 'i' in the British reading of "pig" and "king"; which we pronounce the same as the 'ee' in how we say "feet". And, a separate symbol which reflects what we call "short" 'i'; in how we say "pig" , which is a cross between the British 'i' in the British "pig" and the British 'e' in the British "peg".

American Engish is not being fairly represented by IPA.

  • 3
    You're still misrepresenting the facts. This is not something that occurs in General American; it only occurs in a subset of American dialects. The fact that you hear a tense vowel there, rather than a lax one, only means that that's what your own dialect has and what you expect to hear. Predictable phonological rules like this one are almost never indicated in dictionary pronunciation guides which are phonemic, not phonetic. There are several IPA symbols that could be used, but when writing phonemically, there's just no need to. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 8:13
  • 1
    You're going to have to take that up with American based Merriam Webster . I don't answer for them. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:50
  • 1
    Yet you’re changing what they say. M-W deal only with American dialects, and they say that this often happens. You’re stating that this is the “natural” American reading, which has been gainsaid by several AmE speakers here: it is the natural reading to speakers of some AmE dialects. You’ll note also that even though M-W recognises this variant, they still write it with the short /ɪ/, precisely because this is a predictable, phonologically conditioned sound change. This has nothing to do with American English not being fairly represented by IPA; it’s stimply a case of the majority → Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:57
  • 1
    → pronunciation being the one given in reference works, which is perfectly normal. You won’t see pillow given as /ˈpεloʊ/, either, although that is a very common, even predominant, pronunciation in some dialects. Overall, it is a minority pronunciation, and it is predictable; therefore, it is sufficient to note (as M-W do in the passage you quote) that this systematic variation exists, without using that as the default pronunciation in all words where it applies. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:59
  • 4
    No, I expect you to take M-W’s word in the very document you yourself cite. But since your mind was clearly made up that AmE is being ‘unfairly represented’ in IPA before you even asked the question, I don’t really expect you to take anyone’s word for anything—you’re obviously not going to. Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 9:20

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