I want to pronounce damning 'dam- ning' but dictionaries including the unabridged OED show the only correct pronunciation should be 'damn-ing'?
closed as unclear what you're asking by Edwin Ashworth, user240918, Jim, KarlG, oerkelens Mar 4 '18 at 10:11
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My understanding is that in a typical modern English accent, as a general rule the addition of the inflectional ending -ing never causes an irregular phonological change like this to the pronunciation of the preceding part. (There may be regular phonetic or phonological changes, like the change of voiceless t to flap t in an American accent or the pronunciation of an [r] sound that is not pronounced in the base word in a British accent.) There are a number of derived words like damnation that are pronounced with /mn/, but the inflected form damning is not. So the pronunciation of damning with /mn/ would be considered "incorrect".
The OED apparently does countenance the use of /mn/ in certain derived nouns ending in -ing: the entry for the noun limning ("Illuminating of manuscripts, etc." or "painting") says "/ˈlɪmɪŋ//ˈlɪmnɪŋ/".
The pronunciation of words like this was more uncertain in the past.
John Walker's Critical Pronunciation Dictionary of 1791, a prescriptive pronunciation guide, shows /mn/ in words like damnable and the disyllabic pronunciation of damned, but /m/ without /n/ in damn and the monosyllabic pronunciation of damned. Walker gives the following rule for words ending in -ing:
- N is mute when it ends a syllable, and is preceded by m, as in hymn, limn, solemn, column, autumn, condemn, contemn. In hym-ning and lim-ning the the n is generally pronounced, and sometimes, in very solemn speaking, in condem-ning and contem-ning; but, in both cases, contrary to analogy, which forbids any sound in the participle that was not in the verb.