Pronunciation: kiln

Discussion in 'English Only' started by VoogerTown, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. VoogerTown Junior Member

    h.
    n.
    I heard an art teacher who was constantly talking about firing stuff up in the "kil". Do any of you ignore the "n" in "kiln"? It sounded very odd to me. I always pronounce the "n" in "kiln".
     
  2. nelliot53

    nelliot53 Senior Member

    Puerto Rico
    Spanish [PR], English [US]

    And so do I, for I always heard it pronounced when I was learning the language. (As we also pronounce the "m" in "film", "firm", "berm", etc.)

    Let's see what others have to say about it.
     
  3. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I know a number of pottery and ceramics artists.....none pronounces the 'n'. American Heritage offers two pronunciations: one with and one without the 'n'.
     
  4. shipwrecked New Member

    New York City
    English (US)
    From http://www.takeourword.com/TOW153/page2.html

    "The silent n in kiln dates from the 15th century, in Middle English, The word even appears in the written record from that time in the form kill. However, even though it was not pronounced, the n hung on, so that the spelling was eventually standardized as kiln. Despite the spelling, the silent n pronunciation remained the popular one until recently, We suspect the n is now being pronounced simply because people read the word before hearing it and have no reason to assume that the n is silent. Additionally, the n sound after the l is not all that easy to hear when spoken, anyhow. That may account for the n dropping off in Middle English."
     
  5. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    My mother's family had a "hop kill" on their property in Mendocino county-- I'm spelling it like we pronounced it. I picked up kiln in college, where I was a ceramicist (potter) for a time.
    .
     
  6. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Wow, I never knew all that. For me it's always been kiln.
     
  7. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I stopped to gas up in a very small town in Mississippi this summer-- and to finally break down and buy a map and ask where we were.

    Well, the locals knew where they were, but they couldn't find it on the map they'd just sold me. Sooooo sorry, Yankee-- come back, now! But then a customer stepped up, looked at the map and pointed, saying "we're right here-- in Kill."

    That gave me one of those sinking feelings we were talking about in another thread-- but of course it was spelled Kiln. Gave me childhood memories to hear it pronounced that way.
    .
     
  8. ESustad Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    English - (Minnesota)
    The potters I know (I have an odd propensity to date potters) don't pronounce the 'n.' Everyone else does. I think it's a sort of shibboleth.
     
  9. korts New Member

    enslish
    In the 50's, in the 8th grade, I went to my first shop class and the shop teacher informed us that the correct pronunciation is 'kill'. And this was in the hill country of West Virginia. I would agree that the ending the word with 'n' sound is really from not knowing the trade. Korts
     
  10. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Here's an interesting article on the word's history:

    http://www.billcasselman.com/new_July_2012/kiln.htm

    Several dictionaries still give the pronunciation with "n" as the primary pronunciation. Kilns are not exclusive to potters. I do agree that all potters I have met pronounce it the same as 'kill'.
     
  11. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    It must be an AE thing. I have never heard kil, only kiln.
     
  12. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I agree with Paul. I've never heard it pronounced without the "n" by BrE speakers. In fact I'd never heard of the [kɪl] pronunciation before reading this thread — and I know a lot of potters.

    The Bill Casselman article (your link, James) seems to have it wrong. He writes "Today the most common British pronunciation drops the final n and is said as “kil.” North American pronunciation appears to be equally divided between persons who say “kil” and those who say “kiln.Based on my own experience (and Paul's) and on the Oxford Dictionary's entries (BrE: /kɪln/ ; US: /kiln, kil/), I'd say that the most common British pronunciation, and probably the only one, is [kɪln], with the "n" — and that [kɪl] is used only by some AmE speakers.

    Ws:)


     
  13. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    And mine!:)
     
  14. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Sorry, Tim. Didn't mean to leave you out. Glad to see you haven't changed your mind since 2006! :D

    Ws:)
     
  15. RachelZ3 New Member

    English- Pennsylvania
    Hello, I arrived here from a Google search for the correct pronunciation of "kiln". I have been frustrated touring schools for my son, each one boasting of their "kiln", pronouncing the "n". I learned how to throw pottery and build slab ceramics when I was in nursery school, in Pennsylvania, with a French speaking teacher, who taught us to pronounce it without the "n" . I attended Bennington College in Vermont, they also had a kiln, we learned everything from how to make proper clay to firing with multiple glazes. Naturally, it was pronounced without the "n". I love language, I speak several languages, and I much appreciate the research the forum posters have done here. I am very disappointed that Merriam Webster and other reference sources show both pronunciations, MW puts the "n" pronunciation first and it is the only version that has a sound file. It saddens me to see our language dumbed-down, just as it saddens me to hear teachers allowing children to use "can" instead of "may".
    I am hoping that other lovers of language will support the correct pronunciation.
    Correct pronunciation- it's for everyone.
     
  16. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Ditto here too: I have never ever heard it pronounced without the n. (I wouldn't say I know a lot of potters, but I've known some, including the ones who used to try to teach me pottery:))
    ___________________________________________________

    Welcome to the forum, Rachel:)
    Presumably British English isn't one of them:cool:
    See various posts above: in British English kiln is the correct pronunciation ~ we haven't dumbed it down deliberately to annoy anyone: that's just how it is:)
     
  17. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Well but RachelZ23, there can be more than one "correct" pronunciation, and with kiln, it appears that there are two. I learned about ceramics in the 1960s in California (though I haven't done much with it since), and the "n" was invariably pronounced, not only by students but also by art teachers. That is, in fact, the only way I've ever heard it pronounced, though I'm very interested to see that there is another legitimate pronunciation. One word with two pronunciations isn't at all uncommon in English, and that's what we have here, as far as I can tell. So I don't think I can join your campaign. ;) I don't see any "dumbing down" going on here.

    I think pronouncing the "n" is the most common pronunciation in the U.S. as well. I am a little startled and even a bit doubtful that North American pronunciation "appears to be equally divided," though it's possible, particularly if there are regions of the U.S. and Canada that I'm not very familiar with where the "kil" pronunciation dominates.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  18. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I have heard several potters and art teachers call it "kill", although I've always said "kiln". I always assumed it was an "in-word" and the way you pronounced it told you something about the person's experience.

    Is pronouncing "damn" the same as "dam" a dumbing-down? What about "salmon" as "samon"? I don't think so. Word pronunciations develop over time for many reasons.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  19. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    I can't think of any other word ending in ln where the n isn't pronounced.

    Mind you, I can't think of any other word ending in ln, full-stop-period:rolleyes:
     
  20. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I am equally startled and doubtful, Kate.

    Just for the record, that line, "North American pronunciation appears to be equally divided between persons who say “kil” and those who say “kiln" – even though it looked as if it was from me because the formatting disappeared in your re-quote – was actually from the Bill Casselman article in JamesM's link. Given that Mr Casselman got it totally wrong with regard to the British pronunciation, I don't have much faith in the rest of his statement!:(

    Ws:)
     
  21. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Oh, I was pretty sure that was Casselman, not you - I'll edit my earlier post to make sure this is clear. (I for some reason had some formatting problems when I tried to quote from your post.)

    My guess is that "appears to be equally divided" is his way of saying, "Some people say it one way and some another." Which isn't what "equally divided" means, of course.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  22. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod


    Not losing the "n" but the "l"... "Lincoln".

    One article I read talked about the aversion to certain consonant combinations as word endings like "ln" and "mn". "Mill" was originally "Miln" (still surviving in the surname "Milner"), so it was a word with "ln" that lost the "n" both in spoken and written word. Who knows if "kiln" will end up as "kill" in a few centuries?
     
  23. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    Skiers would know about wedeln Picture but that's a pretty recent adoption from German.

    My mother was an English potter/ceramicist. She had a kiln. I agree that we retain the 'n' in Britain.
     
  24. Kunio Junior Member

    American English
    This is interesting :). Add me to the list of people that have never heard anyone pronounce it "kill", ever. In my whole life. (lol) Learned something new.
     
  25. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It seems that the n-less pronunciation was a fairly widespread dialect pronunciation: see this extract from The English Dialect Grammar.
     
  26. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    What a fascinating find, Looby.:)

    As you say, was fairly widespread (in 1905). And seemingly in the dialects of almost everywhere from Sc. Ant. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. ... all the way down to Som. and e.Dev! [sic] :eek: Though I don't ever remember hearing it in Som. when I was a kid, even from the old codgers who would've been around in 1905! Perhaps we just didn't talk about kilns much.:D

    But if it was that widespread in the past, that might explain why it's survived to some extent in AmE, along with all the other things that went across with the Pilgrim Fathers but have since disappeared in the UK.

    Ws:)
     
  27. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    I'm am American, though ex-pat. I have occasionally heard "kill" in the US, possibly more among experts in firing pottery. My experience agrees with that of Rachel Z3.

    Several potters report their varying experiences at this site. Jan Parzebok summed it up nicely.

    http://www.potters.org/subject15339.htm

    Jan Parzybok 17 Jan 1999

     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
  28. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    "Kilmb"?! :eek: ... He also mentions "kilm". Apparently the variations are endless.:rolleyes: Am I missing some wry, subtle humour?

    Ws:)
     
  29. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I thought Rachel was saying the opposite in terms of 'dumbing down', and that people were using pronunciations closer to the spelling. Therefore if you think often should have a silent <t> (the 'correct' pronunciation), then including the 't' in the pronunciation is a kind of 'dumbing down'.

    Needless to say, I disagree with that position. I would imagine that the earliest pronunciations of kiln would contain the /n/ as it is borrowed from Latin culina, and the Old English form is cyln (by and large, no silent letters in Old English).
     
  30. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've just looked up the OED, which gives the n-less pronunciation first (surprise!), followed by the one with /n/, and notes that the /n/ was lost in Middle English.
     
  31. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    Yes.

     
  32. mplsray Senior Member

    If you take a look at the entries for kiln via the dictionaries linked to from Onelook.com, you will see that several do not even show the "kill" pronunciation. M-W Online is among those that do. Here is what the "Guide to Pronunciation" in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (of which the online dictionary is a version) has to say on page 34a:

    Since educated speakers of English use both pronunciations, even if the version containing /n/ is a bit more popular, the variants are equally standard.

    (How the editors choose which pronunciation sound files to present on the M-W Web site is a different question, and one about which I have no information.)

    It is interesting how the Century Dictionary (from the late 19th century) approaches the matter. Its editors seem to be rueful that the spelling is not usually "kill"!
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
  33. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    mplsray, can you quote the dictionary entry in the Century Dictionary here? The link requires a download of a plug-in in order to read the text.

    Thanks.
     
  34. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    Daniel Jones's English Pronouncing Dictionary, 15th ed., 1997:

    kiln kɪln kɪl

    Etymologically, a kiln is not for drying or burning, but exclusively for cooking.
    In Latin, (to) cook was coquere, from which came coquina, kitchen. A later step in the evolution of coquina produced—strangely enough— culina (and from it English culinary, etc.), a kitchen and a cooking-stove. Anglo-Saxon adopted it as cylene, from which present-day kiln.

    GS :)
     
  35. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    There is a clickable link to a jpg form of the page. The entry says the pronunciation is "kill", no alternatives.

    Here is most of it, retyped from jpg.

    [* denotes italics in original]





     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
  36. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Thanks, bennymix. After you mentioned the clickable link I found it, but I do think it will be helpful for future researchers to have the text here in the thread.

    Thanks!
     
  37. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is new knowledge to me.
    In my part of the world we tend to pronounce all the bits of a word that are written down, so we pronounce the final n of kiln.
    I'll be a lot more tolerant, now, of those who don't.
     
  38. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I imagine they don't pronounce the "mn" in column, damn, hymn and solemn in your neck of the woods, panj. :) Or do they? I've always wanted to hear someone pronounce all the letters in mnemonic or psychology. I loved the way Monty Python characters pronounced all the letters in "knight". :)

    I think we just pick up some and not others, depending on our background. Even here in California some people say "all-mund" for almond, some say "ah-mund" and some say "aa-mund" (like the "a" in "fat").

    And a place that has names like Siobhan, Aoife and Caoimhe can't be too picky about pronouncing all the letters all the time. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
  39. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    And in a pottery context it's not for drying or burning either. A piece is allowed to dry naturally before going into the kiln, and when it does go in the kiln the aim isn't to burn it (except in western raku). Although potters call it 'firing', the process is essentially the same as cooking, so I'd say the etymology holds up.;)
    So, panj, would that be "kilun" like "filum"? ;):D

    Ws:)
     
  40. aasheq Senior Member

    London, UK
    English (Estuary)
    kiln/kill (from culina) and miln/mill (from molina) both lost their final n in Middle English. In the case of the former the n generally survived in writing, leading to the restoration of the pronunciation [kiln], but in the case of the latter the form without n prevailed in speech and in writing.
     
  41. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Aha, JamesM, I regret to confess that I oversimplified. Just at the moment, 10.20pm is way past my bedtime.
    I have not come across "kilun" or "killen" as a pronunciation here, but much to my surprise I did find it in an information video on YouTube.
     
  42. RachelZ3 New Member

    English- Pennsylvania
    I just got back on the forum, pleased to see this has sparked an interest. :) It is wondrous to find others who care about language. I haven't read all 3 pages, but for those who objected to my stance that "kil" is the correct pronunciation and bridled at my depiction of dropping the "n" as "dumbing it down", I quote above the well-researched post that led me to those conclusions. Is it custom to go back further than the 15th century? I am new here, perhaps that is the case. If the n is dropped because people don't know better, that is pretty much the definition of ignorance. I did not accuse this forum of dumbing it down, I hail this forum for caring enough to research and discuss it!
    Note that I am frustrated because the schools that have kilns are only pronouncing it with the n, and the dictionary is only providing the sound with the n. This is killing off the 700 year old pronunciation, and it saddens me.
    Of course I am an American English speaker, as I registered as such to post, and mentioned I went to nursery school in Pennsylvania, no need to "presume", it is stated.

    So I will read the rest of the pages and hope for new information.
     
  43. RachelZ3 New Member

    English- Pennsylvania
    Oh I like that!!!:rolleyes:

    Around here we still have at least "Limekiln" because of the Lime kilns that were in use 300 years ago, and we pronounce the n. I guess that doesn't bother me because it's been that way all my life, but now it seems it should?
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
  44. IntoTheFire New Member

    English - Canada
    I was recently in an art class, and I never once heard it pronounced "kil". I do believe that our language is shifting further towards the "kiln" pronunciation...
     
  45. RachelZ3 New Member

    English- Pennsylvania
    Oh wow page 2 is FUN! I wish I knew Latin. Isn't Latin a language no longer spoken? The "English Dialect Grammar" link doesn't come up for me. :( Biffo, your mom may have been pronouncing the n due to the intolerance panjandrum charmingly mentioned. And considering that it sounds like "kill", in order to be understood by most, especially while talking about our school, even I will pronounce the n avoid scaring people.
    I was telling someone how happy I was the elementary school had a lovely kill.
    uh, not.
    I like that Century Dictionary, they speak my language :D
    I understand the regional dialect issue, people in Pennsylvania pronounce "water" as WHA ter and the correct pronunciation is wutter. Our friends in Baltimore say "Warshington". When I was in school in London (Webber Douglas) I had a heckova time finding Leicester Square because I was asking for LY KES TER.
    I had a friend who lived in "Wooster", it took me forever to find them... and then I realized there isn't "Worchestersheer" sauce for my steak...

    Thank you again, this has made me feel a lot better!
     
  46. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Why settle on the 15th century? You can of course be selective with evidence to make any point you like, but looking at the bigger picture might be more appropriate.

    As many sources show (and as the very same writer of that forum post quoted by shipwrecked went on to say afterwards), the word was cylene or cyline in Old English in the early 8th century. The presence of the final e indicates that the n was pronounced. The spelling evolved (via cyln), and then 700 years later, in the 15th century, the n-less pronunciation started to occur (I suppose you might consider that a 'dumbing down'!).

    We have no evidence that dropping the n became standard, only that by the late 19th century it was widespread in some regional dialects. That fact alone suggests that the pronunciation of the n probably remained as 'standard', at least in BrE. It's possible that the n-less dialect version became established in some parts of North America (depending, by area, on which English region the original colonists came from).

    That statement, "We suspect the n is now being pronounced simply because people read the word before hearing it and have no reason to assume that the n is silent ", is simply the opinion of 'Melanie and Mike', who run the website from which it was taken. Personally I suspect that the n is now being pronounced because it's always been there (except for those who drop the n, and their number seems to be diminishing).
    Well, let's look at that bigger picture. Based on the evidence we have seen, the n was pronounced for at least 700 years. For the next 500-600 years, some people dropped the n. In the last 100 years or so, that n-dropping habit has virtually disappeared in BrE, and is obviously lessening in AmE.

    So perhaps you shouldn't be so frustrated or saddened. Schools and dictionaries are simply recognising the normal and logical pronunciation. Nobody should criticise you for using a dialect version if you want to, but maybe you should be just as tolerant of the perfectly (and perhaps more) legitimate other pronunciation. This may be killing off a 600-year-old (mis?)pronunciation (in round centuries, 21 minus 15 makes 6 by my counting ;)), but it's preserving the essence of a pronunciation that's been around for 1300 years!

    So, if you're really a traditionalist, you should logically prefer the pronounced n. If you're a 'modernist' you should also prefer the pronounced n (the prevalent pronunciation of the present day). If you prefer the localised variant you were brought up with, then fine, do your thing. But it's really not worth being sad or frustrated just because others are quite justifiably doing their thing.:cool:

    PS. I wrote most of this before reading your latest post, Rachel. I'm glad you're feeling a lot better now.:)

    Ws:)
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2014
  47. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I'm not sure that this works as an argument, Wordsmyth:

    The etymology of "mill" started from Latin molina and progressed into miln / myln / muln and then to mill. The fact that the word ended with an "n" back then doesn't mean that it was pronounced that way. In fact there are many people who have had their names recorded at one time as "Miln" and another as "Mill". It seems to indicate that the "n" wasn't pronounced.
     
  48. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    The one ceramics course I ever took was in my native state of Pennsylvania and the teacher, a professional artist, always referred to the place in which our creations were fired as the "kill"; I was surprised when I found that the spelling was actually kiln.

    As noted much earlier, the American Heritage Dictionary recognizes both pronunciations. Two British dictionaries on my shelf, the Concise OED and Chambers 21st Century, don't comment on pronunciation at all; I think that means they recognize only the pronunciation that reflects the actual spelling.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2014
  49. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Granted, James, that at some point mylen/miln/myln/muln lost its pronounced n. It evidently was pronounced in Old English mylen, where it formed the Germanic -en ending, so there's a fair chance that the n went on being pronounced for some time even with the contracted spelling (especially because very few people could read, so they'd be repeating what they heard). Then presumably the n started being dropped by some people, so the two pronunciations (and the two spellings) would have run in parallel for some time — until at some point the n-less pronunciation took over completely, and so mill eventually became the standard spelling ...

    And that's where kiln is different. The evolution was probably similar up to the point where the two variants were running in parallel, but there's no evidence that the n-less pronunciation ever took over completely. On the contrary, the fact that the spelling as kiln survived (unlike miln) suggests that the pronounced n probably never disappeared. If it had followed the same course as mill, we'd be writing it as kill. Also we have the fact (from Loob's linked source in #25) that in 1905 the n-less kiln, though widespread, was a regional-dialect form, and not in all regions (unlike the n-less mill, which had long since become standard).

    So:
    - In mylen the n was pronounced. In mill, it's not (because there isn't one;)).
    - In cylene the n was pronounced. In kiln, it still is pronounced (widely, even if not universally).

    If you asked me to choose between the theories that ...

    - (a) kiln underwent a total change to 'kil', but for some inexplicable reason was never respelt (as mill was), and that the widespread present-day pronunciation of the n is down to crass ignorance;
    - (b) the pronounced n in kiln never became extinct (in spite of competition from 'kil'), and so it's still alive today;

    ... then, in the face of the supporting evidence, and with unwavering faith in Occam's Razor, I'd go for (b) every time.:p

    Ws:)
     
  50. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    A wee side note: the surnames Milner and Kilner are still around. Presumably everybody pronounces the /n/ there! :D
     

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