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, user067531, Jim, KarlG, oerkelens Mar 4 '18 at 10:11

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    In UK we don't pronounce the "n". We say damming. – Weather Vane Mar 2 '18 at 19:54
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    The dictionaries have given you a consistent answer - do you think it's wrong? – Mark Beadles Mar 2 '18 at 19:55
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    There are no doubt those who will produce damning critiques of this, but to my ear there's no discernible difference (here in the US) between "damning" and "damming" (or between "damn" and "dam"). – Hot Licks Mar 2 '18 at 19:56
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    In Canadian English, it's a homonym with "damming", too. The N is silent in all contexts of the use of the word "damn", except "damnation" where it is fully pronounced. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 2 '18 at 20:31
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    @ArchibaldJuniper - You don't think "damning" is a verb?? – Hot Licks Mar 3 '18 at 1:09

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:

  1. 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.

(p. 49)

  • To my ear, damn sounds slightly different (to dam), but that might be because it’s usually used for emphasis anyway ... – Will Crawford Mar 3 '18 at 0:13

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