I was taught to pronounce the oo in either afternoon or noon as /u:/ ~~the oo in nook~~ until I found some native speakers pronounce the noon sounding like new-n (videos). But the AmE IPA in the dictionary labels it as /nu:n/, instead of what I thought it as /nju:n/ if it's pronounced new-n. To my surprise, the IPA of new is /nu:/ rather than /nju:/. If /u:/ is equivalent to /ju:/, so why the word moon, whose IPA is /mu:n/, is not pronounced as mew-n?

  • I suspect there is a combination rule applied when /n/ meets /ju:/ and contracts as /mu:/. – Guoyang Qin Apr 14 at 17:33
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    I pronounce moon and noon with the same vowel. – Kate Bunting Apr 14 at 17:37
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    I think you're talking about the diphthong that distinguishes beaut (short for "beautiful") from boot. But neither noon nor moon are enunciated using the diphthong corresponding to you, ewe, the letter 'u'. – FumbleFingers Apr 14 at 17:40
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    For /nu:/ or /nju:/, check whether that source claims to be US or UK pronunciation. – GEdgar Apr 14 at 17:44
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    I've been all over the Anglosphere, and I've never, ever heard of anyone pronouncing 'moon' like 'new-n'. I want to know where this was heard by @GuoyangQin. – Michael Harvey Apr 14 at 19:08

In much of the U.S., /u:/ and /ju:/ have merged after /t/, /d/, and /n/.

That means if you pronounce noon as /nju:n/, people will still understand you, and probably won't even notice you're pronouncing it differently than they do. I don't know if I've heard people use /ju:/ after /n/, but I've definitely heard it after /d/ and /t/. This is generally called yod-dropping, which would imply that the /j/ is dropped, but it might be more useful to think of it as a merger, as there are some people who pronounce both due and do (when it's stressed( as /dju:/.

On the other hand, these two phonemes have only merged after some consonants, and not after others like /m/, /p/, /b/, /f/, /k/, and /h/; if you pronounce moon as /mju:n/, you're much less likely to be understood; in fact the two words moot /mu:t/ and mute /mju:t/ are distinguished by the /j/, and if you say “it's a mute issue,” it's not clear you'll be understood.

Finally, the 'oo' is nook is a different phoneme than is in either mute or moot.

  • Thanks for your answer. yod-dropping is a helpful explanation and interesting phenomenon. Just wondering why adding /j/ sound after some consonants like /n/, /d/, /t/ doesn't feel quite different. Namely, newn and noon, due and do, tune and toon sounds closer (heard the audio multiple times I began to be unsure of which sound they had pronounced), or more unnoticeable as you suggested, than say mewn and moon, beaut and boot, mute and moot. – Guoyang Qin Apr 15 at 2:42

I was taught to pronounce the oo in either afternoon or noon as the oo in nook

That was poor teaching - it is wrong.

Standard pronunciation:

noon, n.Brit. /nuːn/; U.S. /nun/;

moon, n.Brit. /muːn/; U.S. /mun/

nook, n. Brit. /nʊk/, U.S. /nʊk/ (some dialects pronounce as /nuːk/ particularly parts of Scotland - but this is non-standard.)

until I found native speakers pronounce the noon sounding like new-n.

[Newn] is non-standard or dialect - you need to say where these "native speakers" are from.

The "y" sound ([j]) found in "new" - nyew - is know as the intrusive y and is a feature of English.

  • Thanks for your answer. In my OALD app, AmE IPAs of (after)noon and moon are labeled as /nu:n/ and /mu:n/, where the audio of the pronunciation of /nu:n/ sounds like new-n (www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/afternoon). Noon sounds like new-n too in M-W (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/afternoon). I also check videos with "good afternoon" (youglish.com/pronounce/Good%20Afternoon/english/us?), some of them pronounced like new-n. – Guoyang Qin Apr 14 at 18:05
  • @GuoyangQin Have a look at Word Reference Forums for the entry in their dictionary for "noon", "moon", "nook" and "new". (wordreference.com/definition/noon) You will find all of the words pronounced in various versions of English. You will not find "new-n" – Greybeard Apr 14 at 18:17
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    @Greybeard: that's only because the dictionaries are reporting the "standard pronunciation", which is not necessarily how all people actually pronounce things. Some Americans say newn and not noon. – Peter Shor Apr 14 at 19:00
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    Possibly what's confusing is that some (many?) Americans pronounce "new" not as /njuː/ but as /nu/, hence when we say that "noon" sounds like "new" + n, we mean it sounds like the American /nu/ + /n/, not like the British /nju:/ + /n/. – shoover Apr 15 at 4:28

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