gn / ng (prononciation: [ɲ] / [ŋ])

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Charlie Parker, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker Senior Member

    English Canada
    I sometimes think I hear a difference between Parisian and Québécois French in the way the consonant gn is pronounced as in words like montagne, campagne. In Parisian it sounds to me more like the English "onion." In Québec pronunciation I think I hear something more like ng as in "sing." I would be very interested in the exact position of the tongue and a phonetic description.
  2. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    I agree. It is the vowel that sounds different, rather than the consonant, but it is that gn sound that appears when the vowel changes... I think those are old pronunciations for words that actually used to be spelled with ai. For example, if you look up agneau in the TILFi, you'll find this quote: aigneau ne se dit plus, mais il était encore prononcé par nos grands parents... from a 1930s book called le Patois briard. These prononciations evolved in France, but were retained in Canada even as the spelling changed.

    For details on the France version, see the links in the Phonétique, Prononciation / Phonetics, Pronunciation section of the Resources forum. This one in particular has pictures.

    This one includes Canadian sound clips (which confirm your impression, I think)
  3. Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker Senior Member

    English Canada
    Thank you Kelly. That's very helpful. The one with the diagrams is really good.
  4. Landazt

    Landazt Senior Member

    RS, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I noticed that the the french word digne is phonetically represented by ɲ and the English word ring by ŋ.

    They've very very similar and I'd like to know the difference between them.

    I couldn't find anything on the internet, maybe because of the phonetic symbols... So I'm really sorry if this has already been discussed!


    Edit: I noticed that the "anglicisme" PARKING is represented with ŋ.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011
  5. timboleicester

    timboleicester Senior Member

    English - UK
    The position of the tongue in "digne" is just behind the upper front teeth making the "neeee" sound. In "ring" the tongue is held back and pushed to the top of the mouth making the same sound as "Y" as in yellow. Not very scientific but i hope it helps.
  6. ogspog89 Senior Member

    English - Australia
    Sorry, timboleicester, but your description with "y" for "yellow" threw me off completely and is likely to be more confusing for learners of pronunciation.

    The "ign" of digne is like the ñ in El Niño, España, Espagne... like a "ny(a)" or "ny(e)", which I guess could be roughly also respresented by [nj] in phonetic symbols.

    The "ing" of ring doesn't really have the sounds "n" or "g" in it, but instead is like the throat closing off and the sound escaping through the nose. One cannot properly say "ring" with one's nose blocked. I'd say it's close to a nasalised vowel in French, but doesn't have an equivalent (except for English words in French like "le camping").

    By the way, Wiktionary has recorded pronunciations for masses of words:
  7. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    ɲ is a palatal nasal, ŋ is a velar nasal. The difference between the two has to do with the shape of the tongue and with the point where the tongue touches the roof of the mouth (and of course the sound which is produced). The velar nasal isn't really a native French sound, though it can appear in some loanwords like "camping" (but I suspect that many French speakers will actually pronounce such words with a palatal nasal).

    For more detailed information, see this site. Choose "Spanish" for the palatal nasal and "English" for the velar nasal.
  8. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    The two symbols are very similar, but their pronunciations are quite different.
    :thumbsdown: I cannot tell for Québec, but definitely not in Europe!

    camping (FR) → [kɑ̃piŋ] :tick:, [kɑ̃piɲ] :cross: // camping (EN)
    oignon (FR) → [ɔɲɔ̃] ≈ [ɔnjɔ̃] // onion (EN)

    EDIT: see also
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011

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