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front-vowel raising and merging before /ŋ/

Posted: 2005-11-07, 0:07
by Kirk
In some North American dialects, all or a couple of the front vowels may be raised before velar nasal /ŋ/. In my dialect, I raise /ɛŋ/ and /æŋ/ to [eŋ] and /ɪŋ/ to [iŋ] if they're not across morpheme boundaries. (I made a chart of this here if you're interested in seeing more)

Since people rarely misspell "-ing" as "-eeng," I was curious as to how many spelling mistakes I could find for the more common /ɛŋ/ and /æŋ/ raising (and, merger) to [eŋ]. Since /ɛŋ/ and /æŋ/ merge, various different spellings could theoretically represent the resulting sound. For instance, if presented with these following spellings, I'd pronounce them all with [eŋ]:

"langth" [leŋkθ]
"length" [leŋkθ]
"laingth" [leŋkθ]
"leingth" [leŋkθ]

"unilang" [ˈjɯnɪleŋ]
"unileng" [ˈjɯnɪleŋ]
"unilaing" [ˈjɯnɪleŋ]
"unileing" [ˈjɯnɪleŋ]

With that in mind, I used ever-wonderful Google in seeing how many spelling mistakes I could find pointing to how prevalent the /ɛŋ/ and /æŋ/ merger and raising to [eŋ] was in different words. Here were my results:

hunger pengs=5,640
hunger paings =124

strangth= 19,100
straingth=1,810

langth=11,300
laingth=379
leingth=1,070

tengled=186
taingled= 35

mengled=365
maingled=13

enchored=177

peinguin=2,440
panguin=1,960
painguin=5,440

thainksgiving=81
thenksgiving=518
thenked=513

lainguage=191

crainky=357

henkering=43

Anyway, results like these should always be taken with a couple grains of salt but they still for the most part point to an intereting phenomenon. I love Google linguistic research! :D