Pronunciation of "won't"

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jimquk

Member
English
In my Southern British English pronunciation, the /o/ of "won't" sounds exactly like the /ol/ of "gold", "old" etc. In other words, as if spelt *woln't.
Etymonline doesn't suggest any such derivation, offering instead a form wynnot, winnot for will not.
Is there perhaps a dialect form *woll, like German wollen, which would account for "woln't"?
 
  • symposium

    Senior Member
    Italian - Italy
    I think in German it's "willen", cognate of English "will, willing" etc. Besides, I also think of "shan't" as the contraction of "shall not": it seems that the L-sound, in such cases, has been erased by the N-sound of "not". It is possible, maybe, that in some dialects the L-sound hasn't disappeared altogether, isn't it?
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho aunque vivo en Mexico
    I agree with the pronunciation that jimquk offered although I doubt that his British tongue would sound anything like mine! :)
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    I think in German it's "willen"
    Actually, in German the verb is wollen, and only in the singular there are the forms will, willst (cognate of Engl. will). And if in 'won't/woln't' the -not- part is contracted to -nt-, then an explanation is required concerning the o vowel. I think that a derivation from the (Saxon) root 'wol' cannot be excluded - but I'd like to read some expert etymologist's opinion.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Isn't it like the difference of "can" vs. the "can" part of "can't" in BE?
    There's a vowel change in "do" > "don't" as well.
    Is it possible that the vowel of "won't" became the same as in "don't" by analogy?
    By the way, are there any nouns that rhyme with "don't" or "won't"?
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    That sounds interesting! They rhyme for many dictionaries online and also for Welsh-Sion...:confused: I'm pretty curious now, how do you pronounce the word wont? There may be regional differences?!
    According to my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the American pronunciation of wont has a long monophthong, rhyming with taunt, haunt or gaunt.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    According to my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the American pronunciation of wont has a long monophthong, rhyming with taunt, haunt or gaunt.
    No, wont is very short. I pronounce it as if it were written wunt.

    Hang on, do you not pronounce the <l> in 'old' or 'gold'? For me 'won't' and 'old' sound very different. I pronounce them differently and they don't rhyme for me.
    I second this question. I would like to know how woln't sounds and how widespread this is?
     

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    I don't pronounce an L in "old", the OL is a diphthong: the O of "top" followed by the OO of "moon", only shorter.

    The L is still there, just, in a word like "coal", but with the same diphthong, which is distinct from that of the O in a word like "boat", which I would describe as the U of "cup" followed by OO.

    Hope my explanation is clear, I'm sorry I don't have access to IPA on my phone...
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I haven't heard anyone pronounce "won't" as "woln't", but now that I know there are such people, I'm reminded of the fact that I sometimes hear people saying "bolth" for "both". So the "L" in "woln't" doesn't need to have come from the "L" in related forms like "will". There's just something about the way some people pronounce "o" that can infuse an "L" effect after it anyway (at least under some particular conditions such as the following sound being alveolar-to-dental).
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    That sounds interesting! They rhyme for many dictionaries online and also for Welsh-Sion...:confused: I'm pretty curious now, how do you pronounce the word wont? There may be regional differences?!
    WONT | pronuncia di nei dizionari Cambridge Dictionary
    I pronounce wont with a short monophthong, not dissimilarly to want but with a slightly more rounded vowel. I pronounce won't if a diphthong. I don't know if this is a regional thing or an idiosyncratic thing - unfortunately the word wont is not much used so it's difficult to judge.

    I don't pronounce an L in "old", the OL is a diphthong: the O of "top" followed by the OO of "moon", only shorter.

    The L is still there, just, in a word like "coal", but with the same diphthong, which is distinct from that of the O in a word like "boat", which I would describe as the U of "cup" followed by OO.

    Hope my explanation is clear, I'm sorry I don't have access to IPA on my phone...
    Interesting. I certainly pronounce the <l> in old etc. When I try to pronounce it the way you've described I feel like I'm doing an Essex accent (or maybe an older Cockney accent).
     
    Last edited:

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In my Southern British English pronunciation, the /o/ of "won't" sounds exactly like the /ol/ of "gold", "old" etc. In other words, as if spelt *woln't.
    Etymonline doesn't suggest any such derivation, offering instead a form wynnot, winnot for will not.
    Is there perhaps a dialect form *woll, like German wollen, which would account for "woln't"?
    If you are from the South of England than you probably pronounce the "dark l" like a vowel, a bit like the oo in foot. In other words, you probably don't pronouce the vowel in won't like <ol> in gold but <ol> in gold like the vowel in won't. Could that be?
     

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    If you are from the South of England than you probably pronounce the "dark l" like a vowel, a bit like the oo in foot. In other words, you probably don't pronouce the vowel in won't like <ol> in gold but <ol> in gold like the vowel in won't. Could that be?
    Well, I certainly pronounce them alike, and I can't think of any other word with that sound that doesn't have a graphic L.

    As for pronouncing a "dark L", there's certainly a residual consonantal L for me in words like "goal", but not in "gold": /gòwl/ v /gòwd/

    Similarly, I might represent "wont" and "won't" as /w^wnt/ and /wòwnt/. (/^/ as the vowel of "cup", /ò/ as the vowel in "top")
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yes, that makes sense. The weakening of the dark l as it is typical for London/Estuary accents is stronger in front of another consonant, as in gold, than for a final l, as in goal.
     

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    Yes, that makes sense. The weakening of the dark l as it is typical for London/Estuary accents is stronger in front of another consonant, as in gold, than for a final l, as in goal.
    So, any thoughts on "woln't", or is it just an unexplained oddity? It does seem a bit of a coincidence that there is L in the supposed root "will", but then how to explain the O?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So, any thoughts on "woln't", or is it just an unexplained oddity? It does seem a bit of a coincidence that there is L in the supposed root "will", ...
    In modern pronunciation the <o> in won't is pronounced [oʊ] (or [əʊ] in BrE), which is very close if not the same as you would pronounce <ol> in gold in London/Estuary accents (compare Holborn = ['həʊbən]). In other accents, there is no such similarity. Historically, there of course was an l in won't but that is completely gone in modern pronunciation.
    ...but then how to explain the O?
    Won't is a contraction of wonnot which is derived from wol(l) not. Wol(l) is an obsolete alternative form of will.
     
    Last edited:

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    In modern pronunciation the <o> in won't is pronounced [oʊ] (or [əʊ] in BrE), which is very close if not the same as you would pronounce <ol> in gold in London/Estuary accents (compare Holborn = ['həʊbən]). In other accents, there is no such similarity. Historically, there of course was an l in won't but that is completely gone in modern pronunciation.

    Won't is a contraction of wonnot which is derived from wol(l) not. Wol(l) is an obsolete alternative form of will.
    Thank you. That's what I was looking for, a form "woll", which isn't referenced in etymonline. It seems as if the L survived although not represented in the spelling. Any idea what period the last attestation of "woll" dates from?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Thank you. That's what I was looking for, a form "woll", which isn't referenced in etymonline. It seems as if the L survived although not represented in the spelling. Any idea what period the last attestation of "woll" dates from?
    No, i don't think it has survived at all. The modern [oʊ] or [əʊ] is a later diphthongization of a long o which resulted from the elision of the l. That this modern diphthong sounds similar to a weakened dark l in Estuary accent is purly accidental.

    Here is the entry for willen in the Middle English Dictionary with various attestations with o as a vowel. I think the o was originally mainly past tense (these forms don't exist any more) and then spread into present tense forms but I am not sure. German has forms with i and with o as well: i in present singular indicative and o in all other forms.
     
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