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I know that final -⟨ng⟩ is pronounced /ŋ/ (in most dialects), but I'm wondering what happens when the intensifier "ass" comes after the /ŋ/ sound of "long". Does the pronunciation of "long-ass" become /lɑŋgæs/? Or does it stay like /lɑŋæs/? e.g. Do "long-ass" and "long gas" sound exactly the same?

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    Different accents have different pronunciations. Which in particular are you asking about?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 7:55
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    @AndrewLeach I'm looking specifically for answers about GenAm, but I'd also like to know how they (/ŋ/ sounds) function in RP.
    – Jafar
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 8:05
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    Well of course, a speaker of RP would never use a word like ass (which they would spell and pronounce as arse anyway in this context)! But the same applies to sing and singer where the g in the middle can go both ways.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 8:14
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    In American English we would probably pronounce "long gas" as two distinct words. With "long-ass", however, there is only the /ŋ/ sound.
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 12:43
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    @djs I'm not sure if it's really a glottal stop; it feels more in the front of my mouth than that; I think a glottal stop is further back, almost in the throat. In phonetics I believe it is called a voiced /g/. So personally, if I said this, I would pronounce the g in 'gas' in "long gas" exactly the same way as the g in the phrase "out of gas" or "some gas" or "the gas" and so on. So, for "long gas", it would be a /ŋ/ followed by a voiced /g/ right after it.
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 6:48

2 Answers 2

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Yes there is a difference; one has a /ɡ/ after the /ŋ/, and the other doesn't.

English has a set of velar phonemes (produced way back in the mouth, using the back of the tongue and the soft palate as articulators), including /k ɡ ŋ/. The velar nasal /ŋ/ frequently occurs alone, as in singer, and the homorganic nasal cluster /ŋɡ/ also occurs, as in hunger. Leaving out the /ɡ/ in hunger is wrong, and leaving it in singer is also wrong.

And things get messy at the end of the morpheme. Long ago, English had a rule that deleted voiced stops from certain final nasal + stop clusters, leaving silent letters in the ancient spellings, like thumb, numb, dumb, sing, thing, long. The "g" isn't really gone, because as usual the nasal has assimilated from dental /n/ to velar /ŋ/ because of that lost velar /ɡ/.

So, mostly, /ŋɡ/ doesn't occur finally; however, when things get added after it, the /ɡ/ could reappear after the /ŋ/, as in longer 'more long' -- that /ɡ/ has to be there. But there is another -er suffix in English, beside the comparative -er of longer; the -er of worker is called an "agentive suffix" -- it marks the actor (aka "agent") of the root verb. There is also another word long, which is a verb meaning "suffer distress from unfulfilled desire" and takes a preposition for to indicate the missing object of desire.

This leads to two words with different clusters

  • longer Adj, comparative form of adj long, pronounced /'lɔŋɡər/ (with /ɡ/)
  • longer Noun, agentive form of vb long, pronounced /'lɔŋər/ (without /ɡ/)

You could even with a little imagination use them both in the same sentence, and nobody would probly notice.

  • That "longer for justice" who was creating the commotion is no longer here.
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  • I do not understand. Aren't the words long pronounced the same way in both?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 17:19
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    So, it depends on the suffix. If it's the comparative -er, then the pronunciation returns the /g/ to the word, but if it was the agentive -er, then the word will stay without the /g/. this makes me think, does utterance-final /ŋɡ/ exist in English? (Utterance-final as in the speaker doesn't say anymore words after it)
    – Jafar
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 13:44
  • That's exactly the thought many people had; the problem is that it's just a ghost of a /ɡ/, which velarizes the nasal -- it would otherwise be an /n/ -- without showing up except in certain (very specific) contexts. Much the same can be of /mb/ finals: plumber is another agentive with no stop, only a labialized nasal. But number, which ought to rhyme, doesn't. Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 16:47
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Broadly, yes.

I know nothing of phonetics but the difference is between 'long ass' and 'long gas' with the emphasis for some reason on 'long' in the first case and 'gas' in the second.

Does that not say it all?

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    I think he's asking about folks who pronounce Long Island kinda like lawn guy land, versus those who don't.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 0:15
  • @tchrist I don't doubt that and while it might restrict the depth or range, I don't see that it changes the principle. Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 0:18

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