Why are malign and malignant pronounced differently? What is the rule that separates that pattern from, say, sign and signage?

marked as duplicate by Lawrence, tchrist Jul 22 '17 at 16:56

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  • The rule is the same for sign and significant. – Barmar Mar 25 '17 at 10:19
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    They all work this way: assign/assignation, benign/benignant, consign/consignation, design/designation, indign/indignant, obsign/obsignation, resign/resignation, sign/signify. – tchrist Jul 22 '17 at 16:56
  • @tchrist: What do you mean? "They all work this way" is too vague to be useful. Geoff points out that at least two patterns exist for words ending in "ign" and related words with suffixes: signage is not pronounced /sɪgnɪdʒ/. (There are actually even more possible patterns if we expand things a bit to look at other words spelled with "-ign-": poignant in modern English is usually pronounced /poɪnjənt/, not /poɪgnənt/ or /poɪnənt/.) – sumelic Jul 22 '17 at 21:24
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    @sumelic English cannot have /ɲ/ in the syllable coda, so that sound always reduces to /n/ there, even when the source language had /ɲ/—which is the phoneme represented by the ‹gn› digraph in French whence most of these derive (also in Italian). Hence feign, design, oppugn, impugn, impregn, campaign, arraign, &c. Add a couple more syllables and this shows up as /g.n/ designation, oppugnation, impugnation, impregnation &c; note also Cologne, Bologna. In poignant /ˈpoɪ.ɲənt/ it's intervocalic and recent enough to retain the original /ɲ/ pronunciation, like lasagne <IT, canyon <ES. – tchrist Jul 22 '17 at 22:22

malign and malignant may look and sound similar but they are two very different words. malign should be a verb- to "malign" someone, to speak ill-of, to paint them in an unflattering light, usually through "malicious" lies. Malicious being derived from malign- a malicious act.

Malignant sounds like a noun- a malignant tumor, something usually meaning cancerous, or the most horrible, worst form of a disease. A terrible person or presence- oh he's malignant and ruins everything he touches.

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    This does not appear to answer the question. – tchrist Jul 22 '17 at 16:52
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    "malignant" is an adjective, and this sounds like a non-answer. – Cascabel Jul 22 '17 at 19:50
  • Malign is also an adjective, not just a verb. – allyourcode Jan 17 at 17:17

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