1) Words correctly coded /iː/ 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 /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)."

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

5) YouTube /pijŋk/ not /pɪŋk/ song
Here is a typical American accent where the word "pink " is being used clearly using the /pijŋk/ . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asb8N0nz9OI

6) 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.


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


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.

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  • 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? – Joshua Robison May 28 '16 at 8:08
  • 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. – Joshua Robison May 28 '16 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. – Peter Shor May 30 '16 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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 16 '16 at 0:08
  • 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]. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 16 '16 at 0:12

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.)


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    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 May 12 '16 at 5:37
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    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 May 12 '16 at 6:17
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    @BeaBonmot Yes, ink and internet have the same initial sound (as does initial). – Andrew Leach May 12 '16 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. – Peter Shor May 13 '16 at 14:46
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    @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. – Steven Littman May 14 '16 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.

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    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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 '17 at 8:13
  • You're going to have to take that up with American based Merriam Webster . I don't answer for them. – Joshua Robison Jan 27 '17 at 14:50
  • 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 → – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '17 at 14:57
  • → 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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '17 at 14:59
  • You expect me to take your word. Not likely. – Joshua Robison Apr 23 '17 at 7:27

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