First, may I begin by saying that I love the English language! After so many years, I still find myself learning something new each day.

The question Are there any pairs of words like "beloved"/"belovèd", "learned"/"learnèd" that maintain a semantic difference to the present day? has been identified as a possible duplicate of this question, but therein an enumeration of such words is called for, whereas here I am asking about the pronunciation of a certain adjective within this group.

Are -èd adjectives still usèd words? could also be argued as a duplicate of my question, but what I want to know is far less broad, revolving around the pronunciation of deserved.

That settled, my question today revolves around the pronunciation of deserved in differing contexts. In British English at least (I can't speak for American English, unfortunately) there are no less than several heteronyms which end in ed.

Among these are:

  • Blessed (past-tense verb)/blessèd (adjective)
  • Beloved (adjective)/belovèd (adjective)
  • Learned (past-tense verb)/learnèd (adjective)
  • Dogged (past-tense verb)/doggèd (adjective)
  • Legged (past-tense verb)/leggèd (adjective, usually hyphenated to another word)

Of course the grave accents aren't strictly necessary (context is usually telling) but I want my point to be clear.

I got the impression that deserved belonged to this class of words, i.e. deserved (past-tense verb) and deservèd (adjective). If this is archaic, then perhaps what confused me is that the adverb deservèdly and the noun deservèdness are pronounced in four syllables.

I can't decide whether the adjective is pronounced in two or three syllables. The pronunciation of well-deserved may be telling here.

I have checked this in a few dictionaries, but come to no conclusion. The Cambridge Dictionary, usually trustworthy in such (fine) matters, gives the pronunciation of any form of deserved as two syllables in length.

  • The duplicate has an answer mentioning trisyllabic deserved, but this is an archaic (at best) pronunciation. George Herbert's 17thC poem ‘Wreath’ includes an example: 'A wreathèd garland of deservèd praise, Of praise deservèd, unto Thee I give ...' . You should include your dictionary findings; non-mention is usually a good sign of non-idiomaticity. Sep 18 '16 at 15:41
  • That answer is my own, and could be wrong :) Anyhow, thank you for that information. Perhaps what confused me was the pronunciation of deservèdly and deservèdness. @EdwinAshworth Sep 19 '16 at 0:46

No, deserved as an adjective does not have the final e accented: it's pronounced deserv'd (at least in North America); a common example is well-deserved.

By the way, all the pronunciations you gave are the same in North American English (if such a thing exists; American English subdivides into numerous versions, as does Canadian English).

  • Really?The accented versions are often old fashioned but don't you say "dearly belove'd" at weddings?
    – mgb
    Sep 19 '16 at 3:04
  • Hello, David. While I wouldn't say your answer is a bad one (but note mgb's caveat), can I point you to what @Sven Yargs says about unsupported answers on ELU: << Your answer seems to be heavily weighted toward personal opinion as opposed to objective analysis – but this site especially prizes answers that have an identifiable basis in verifiable fact rather than just opinion. Please consider strengthening your answer by citing some independent authority that draws the same general conclusion that you do with regard to usage.... Thanks! >> Sep 19 '16 at 9:12
  • @mgb To what are you referring? My remark was that the è sound was made on all those uses (blessed to legged) in NA English. Sep 19 '16 at 13:31
  • @DavidHandelman - sorry, I thought you meant the 'ed version of learned/beloved/dogged wasn't used at all in NA.
    – mgb
    Sep 19 '16 at 15:27

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