According to what I have learned, -gn- was commonly pronounced /ŋn/, e.g. [ˈmaŋ.nʊs] (magnus). However, this excerpt from Encyclopædia Britannica had me wondering:

The sound represented by ng (pronounced as in English sing and represented in the IPA by /ŋ/), written ng or gn, may not have had phonemic status (in spite of the pair annus/agnus ‘year’/‘lamb,’ in which /ŋ/ may be regarded as a positional variant of /g/).

Could it be that -gn- was in fact pronounced merely /ŋ/, so that you would get annusagnus as [ˈan.nʊs]–[ˈaŋ[ː]ʊs]? ([ː] added due to my uncertainty)? Were this the case, then I suppose one would be unable to tell the difference between e.g. *angus and agnus, so I am now left perplexed.

───

P. S.: I am unsure whether or not phonetic specificity should be added to the tags. (If so, velar and nasal should be added.) I thought it wise to inform of this.

  • 1
  • I have read through the question and the very good answer which you have linked to. If I rephrase my question to emphasise my main puzzlement, the possibility of a /ŋ/ pronunciation, will this satisfy the requirements for this to be a unique question? I believe that in doing so, I will remain true to my actual question, at the same time not invalidating the answer provided. – Canned Man Oct 23 at 8:15
  • 1
    This looks less like a duplicate to me now, so I've reopened it – thanks! – Nathaniel Oct 23 at 12:50
  • Thank you for your assistance, y'all. I learned from this as well. – Canned Man Oct 25 at 18:28
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think the wording of the Encyclopædia Britannica article is unclear, leading to misunderstanding. I don't think they mean that Latin "gn" could represent [ŋ(ː)] rather than [ŋn], but I'll admit the wording is confusing.

The point they're trying to make (I think) is that on the face of it, if [ŋ] can appear before a velar consonant and [n], it looks like it should be regarded as a separate phoneme, but maybe in "ng", pronounced [ŋg], it can be analysed phonemically as /ng/, but in "gn", pronounced [ŋn], it can be analysed phonemically as /gn/.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.