While I was trying to think of examples for an answer to Vun-Hugh Vaw's question about voicing voiceless consonants in American English, I considered the word "acknowledge", which I think I can pronounce with [g.n] instead of with [k.n]. But I hesitated to mention it because I'm not sure if many people would agree with that judgement.

Merriam-Webster only lists "ik" and "ak" as possible pronunciations of the first syllable; the American Heritage Dictionary lists only "ak", while the OED says it can be /ək/ or /æk/ in American English.

I did a Google search of the spelling "agnowledge", and it turned up more than just a examples of this misspelling, but I'm not sure how much to read into that. I did find the following Reddit coment which is more explicit evidence for the existence of a pronunciation with voiced /g/:

Acknowledge...why do we say it like it's agnowledge?

(posted by smittyeuler Wed May 6 12:37:26 2015 UTC in AskReddit thread "What is the stupidest pronunciation of a word you've ever heard?")

Does anyone know of any more evidence about this? I'd be particularly interested in learning if any linguists have noted/discussed the occurrence of this pronunciation, but I'd also appreciate hearing about any other kinds of evidence, like a description of this pronunciation in a list of "mispronunciations to avoid".

  • Out of sheer egg knowledge.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 7:10
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    There is something here groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.usage.english/…
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 8:00
  • @sumelic - Yes, I guessed there might something interesting in there, but I am sure you can make a better job , better than I could, in making an organized answer out of that. Thanks.
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 8:20
  • I concur with your assessment. My impression is that acknowledge is commonly—if not more often than not—realized with [ɡ] in running speech of American English. On Youglish, I hear [ɡ] in most cases. It is curious no major dictionary seems to have taken note of this pronunciation; I assume it's either because the pronunciation is such a recent phenomenon they have not caught up with it or because the lexicographers regard the [ɡ] as an assimilatory allophone of /k/ rather than as a complete sound change.
    – Nardog
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 6:52
  • 1
    How do you pronounce technology? Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 14:12

2 Answers 2


It seems that several other speakers have perceived /g/ in acknowledge. I feel more confident at this point that whatever is going on, it's not just inside my head.

However, I'm not entirely sure that this perception is accurate: I wonder if it might be a mishearing of pronunciations with unaspirated voiceless [k]. (Such a mishearing could eventually lead to the use of pronunciations with truly voiced [g], but I don't know if this sound change has progressed to this point yet.)

An alt.usage.english thread (found by user240918) provides some evidence for the existence of this pronunciation (but also some additional evidence that it is uncommon and that very few people think of it as the "prototypical" pronunciation of acknowledge).

The original poster, Avi Jacobson, posed the following question:

I'm currently engaged in a debate with a friend over the pronunciation(s) of the word "acknowledge." I believe there is at least one pronunciation which, though not documented by mainstream dictionaries, is significantly common in casual speech among native speakers of English.

How do you pronounce this word? Do you believe you are pronouncing any of the segments differently than the standard orthography appears to indicate?

The first five respondents only indicated the use of /k/.

The sixth respondent (Ross Clark, 4/13/1) gave a pronunciation with /g/; after this, two of the earlier respondents said this was also a possibility for them:

  • Oh, good point. It probably is for me, though I think I have [the [g] pronunciation] in variation with a glottalized [?k] pronunciation. After too much introspection, I can't tell which is more natural for me.

    (Nathan Sanders)

  • Now I'm feeling sheepish, because I'm realizing that when I say the word in a sentence instead of deliberately, in isolation, it's [g] for me too.

    (Harlan Messinger, 4/13/11)

A later respondent (John Atkinson, 4/13/11) said

[g] instead of [k] is heard here sometimes, but it's comparatively rare. But since the [k] isn't aspirated in this position, it's hard to pick the difference.

Jerry Friedman (4/14/11) brought up the issue of technology and picnic, after which Nathan Sanders (4/14/11) reported "I think I have sporadic [g] in 'technology', but definitely not in 'picnic'."

Friedman ended up saying "A [g] in "acknowledge" sounds and feels so natural that I think I might say it (contrary to what I suggested before), but a [g] in "technology" seems weird to me." (4/15/11)

Avi Jacobson (4/14/11) also gave the example of "Magnally as a variation of McNally", and [email protected] (4/15/11) suggested that "<McLaughlin> seems to be [Mglochlin]."

I found another source that provides evidence for this pronunciation existing in British English. From SheffieldForum, Home > General > General Discussions, thread "Pronunciation"..":

What about all these newsreaders saying agknowledge. Went did that word begin having a G in it

(posted 30-09-2016, 07:26 #11, by Dr Afzal)

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    In the TIMIT corpus, the word acknowledge appears twice, one pronounced with an unreleased [ɡ̚] and the other with a released [k]. The first is by a NY English speaker born in 1961 and the second by a North Midland speaker born in 1954. Both are white female with a bachelor's degree.
    – Nardog
    Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 20:14

Out of sheer egg knowledge.

But seriously, it could be a case akin to a flapped /t/ of AmE pronunciation: /g/ for /k/.

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    I do think it would be a similar case of voicing as with flapped /t/. Right now, though, I'm more interested in learning if pronunciations with /g/ "exist" at all for more than a handful of speakers
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 8:19
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    My accent is BrE with traces of English-speaking South African. I pronounce the 'ck' in 'acknowledge' closer to 'g' than 'k', especially if I say it quickly or don't think about it. I agree it's similar to flapped /t/ in my case; but I would never, for example, pronounce 'acne' with a /g/ sound.
    – Charl E
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 9:09
  • @CharlE: I think it's relevant that in "acne" the /k/ is at the end of a stressed syllable. I was going to say that this is unlike the situation with /t/, but actually now that I think about it, I think I might be able to voice the /t/ in "at least" (making it sound something like "ad least"), while I certainly can't voice the /t/ in "Atlas" (although I may "debuccalize" it to /ʔ/).
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 9:15
  • We don't flap /t/s before /n/s. And most of us don't do anything like "flapping" for consonants other than /t/ or /d/. I wouldn't lump it in the same class at all. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 11:01

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