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I am familiar with the phonetic sound of 'ng' together ( I am sorry I don't have a phonetic keyboard) and that there is a special way to pronounce it but some, including me, pronounce both letters and stress on them like in (king, ring, thing, sing, song, wrong....etc.). However, even the verbs that end in 'ing', I often hear people stress on the 'g' at the end. What is the proper way to pronounce it, should I pronounce the 'g' or just omit it.

Another question, when do I use the apostrophe in verbs. I get quite confused when people write (rainin') or (gettin'). Is that a rule or something colloquial?

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    This is a matter of dialect. I pronounce ng with a soft nasal sound. In another region they pronounce a hard g at the end after the nasal n. In yet another, people don't say the final g at all – for example going as goin'. – Weather Vane Mar 29 at 19:18
  • Indeed. And speakers of some dialects pronounce it as /ŋg/ rather than /ŋ/. – Decapitated Soul Mar 29 at 19:35
  • On your last question, you don't need to use an apostrophe, just write those words with a g. Writing them with an apostrophe in place of their g just reflects the informal colloquial pronunciation in which some people drop the g altogether, but even if you do that when speaking aloud there's no need to do so in writing. – nnnnnn Mar 30 at 0:00
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This is a tricky business, mixing up pronunciation, dialects, and spelling.

First, the facts. English has a phonemic (i.e, distinct) sound /ŋ/ (a lower-case n with a hook tail like ɡ). You hear it at the end of sing, song, hang, rang, rung, for instance. That's not an /n/. And it's not a /ɡ/, either. It's a nasal consonant (like /m/ and /n/) pronounced in the same place as /ɡ/ and /k/. That makes /ŋ/ a 'velar nasal', because /ɡ/ and /k/ are velar stops. They're all pronounced with the tongue moving in the velar (soft palate) region of the mouth.

Old English didn't have that sound phonemically. It was automatic when /n/ preceded /ɡ/ or /k/ and never happened anywhere else. But then the velar stops started disappearing, and eventually Modern English had /ŋ/.

Second, the spelling. English spells final /ŋ/ as NG. That's cool, because (like final labial /mb/ in thumb and lamb), final velar /ŋɡ/ in sing and going lost the stop at the end of the cluster, leaving only the nasal. I.e, original final /mb/ changed to final /m/, and original final /ŋɡ/ changed to final /ŋ/. (Final dental clusters in /nd/ didn't change, though, and we have lots of words like hand and pretend that keep the final /d/.)

Third, the conflation. While /ŋ/ is spelled NG, so is /ŋɡ/, because of the change in pronunciation and the lack of change in spelling. Consider

  • singer /'sɪŋər/ vs finger /'fɪŋɡər/ - Look like they rhyme but they don't.
  • longer /'lɔŋər/ 'one who longs' vs longer /'lɔŋɡər/ 'more long' - Spelled identically.

This contrast between /ŋ/ and /ŋɡ/ happens in other languages, too. In Malay (Indonesian), which has a reasonable orthography, /ŋ/ is spelled NG, while /ŋg/ is spelled NGG. Thus the word that means what English speakers call a mango /'mæŋɡo/ is spelled mangga in Malay, with two ɡ's.

Fourth, the dialect mix. The active participle ending -ing /-ɪŋ/ is widely used in the Progressive construction (He is reading a book), and as is often the case with common, predictable endings and little words, it gets reduced in rapid speech to just /-ɪn/, with a dental /n/ instead of a velar /ŋ/. This is a distinction that has come to have some social attribution; the British aristocracy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries affected "G-dropping" as part of the cultural baggage of the upper-class "huntin' shootin' Englishman" image. Dorothy Sayers makes masterful use of this in her Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

In the US, on the other hand, "G-dropping" is stigmatized, and children are corrected if they do it. Not that everybody notices; it's a normal kind of neutralization that happens all the time and feels natural, so we do it and don't notice. But then it comes to writing and the problems all come back.

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I think you cannot go wrong by pronouncing them all as 'ng' as in king or ring. I too have heard the extra 'g' used at the end. In my experience these people are often relatively new to English and somehow imagine that the g deserves to be heard. It may also be matter of dialect.

The apostrophe at the end in your examples signifies the absence of the 'g' that would make the word correct. The correct pronunciation there would be to replace the 'ng' sound with just an 'n'. Here it is the intention of the author to have it mispronounced. This is done to make the dialect sound folksy or rural.

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  • The man who taught me physics came from Manchester (England) and was certainly not new to English. For him the "g" was emphatically not silent. Some speakers from the West Midlands (not Birmingham) habitually sound the "g". – JeremyC Mar 29 at 21:59
  • Always glad to learn something new. Perhaps someone will tell us why this is used. – Elliot Mar 30 at 2:25
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The only way I can describe that pronunciation is as a voiced sound made with the top of the tongue and the back of the palate. Pronouncing the g is common is some northern English dialects, most notably scouse. But even the Scousers only do this if the 'ng' appears in the middle of a word; never at the end (as in "singer", but never in "song"). As a rule, don't pronounce the g.

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