2

I don't know if this is considered to be a natural reaction or not. Sometimes I mispronounce the N to NG if the next word starts with "th" or etc. Like "throw another shrimp on the barbie". When I run the words "shrimp", "on", "the" together, I sound like this:"shrimpong the barbie". My tongue would automatically place backward in convenience of pronouncing the "th" sound. Is it that my pronunciation is wrong? Or is it really a common phenomena? Is there a saying that words end with "N" sound should be changed "ng" sound in certain case?

  • Calling a barbeque a "barbie" is another interesting substituion! – Zubin Mukerjee Aug 14 '17 at 2:23
  • @Zubin Mukerjee Yeah, I try to talk like the Australian. What I want to ask is the pronunciation of words that end in N, do they sound change to the "ng" sound when the next word starts with "th"? – Jia Yu Aug 14 '17 at 2:35
8

As far as I know, pronouncing "on the" with [ŋ] (the "ng" sound of "song") isn't usual in native English accents. English speakers usually have some gestural overlap between a nasal and a following consonant (related question: Why do dictionaries transcribe the nasal in 'think' and 'language' with /ŋ/, yet 'input' and 'inbox' with /n/, not /m/?). This means that a nasal in this position tends to sound like it has the same place of articulation as the following consonant. Gestural overlap is especially likely to affect coronal consonants such as /n/ (in fact, non-nasal coronal consonants such as /t/ and /d/ also have gestural overlap with a following consonant in many contexts, so e.g. a phrase like "good boy" may be realized with [bb] or "outpost" may be realized with [ppʰ]).

The word "the" in a standard English accent starts with the consonant phoneme /ð/. This can be realized in a few ways, as a voiced dental fricative [ð] or sometimes as a voiced dental stop [d̪]. Sometimes, it can even be lenited to an approximant or elided entirely, or assimilate in nasality to a preceding /n/. However, I don't know of any accent where the definite article is commonly realized with a velar point of articulation. So it would not be expected to cause a preceding /n/ to be pronounced as [ŋ]. It would be expected to cause a preceding /n/ to be realized as a dental nasal, [n̪].

To summarize, I would expect "shrimp on the barbie" to be pronounced with something like [nə], [n̪ə], [n̪ðə], [n̪d̪ə]. I would not expect [ŋ] to show up.

I have read that there are some languages where coda nasal consonants tend to be realized as velar [ŋ] even before coronal consonants, but English is not one of them as far as I know. It occurs in some Romance languages, like Neapolitan Italian, according to the following document: "Separating the Root Node: On Coda Velarization in Romance", by Barbara E. Bullock (example: "[sjeŋtə] 'listen' 3.sg.", p. 48). Maybe the general linguistic tendency that causes this phenomenon in some Romance languages has affected your pronunciation of English.

For a native English speaker, it would be natural for "on" to sound like "ong" before /g/ or /k/, for example, in a phrase like "on good terms with..." or "Committee on Commercial and Industrial Policy".

  • anecdotally - I'm British/Australian - some years ago I knew one native speaking Englishman who actually converted almost all n to ng before a vowel - so enemy => engemy, penny => pengy... there may have been a more subtle instance with some consonants, like romangtic or ong the but I don't remember that as clearly. – HorusKol Aug 14 '17 at 6:24
  • @HorusKol I'm no expert, but that seems like a speech impediment to me. – Wilson Aug 14 '17 at 9:47
  • @Wilson quite possibly - but it's a parallel to the OP's pronunciation – HorusKol Aug 14 '17 at 10:32
  • @HorusKol It was used as a speech impediment for Popeye - can't remember the cartoons too well, but definitely in the live-action film with Robin Williams. – Rycochet Aug 14 '17 at 12:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.