Hangar / Hanger

D. Ezra Johnson ezra_50 at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 24 00:23:28 UTC 1999

There seem to be a few misunderstandings about this "hangar" / "hanger"

First of all, it should be clear that the /ngg/ pronunciation
of "[airplane] hangar" is not necessarily a Yiddishized or New York
pronunciation. It is the only pronunciation given in a British dictionary,
and an alternate pronunciation in both the American Heritage Dictionary and
the old (1941) Merriam-Webster's at my disposal. (In fact, AHD has [haeNG at r,
haeNGg at r] while Webster's has [haeNG at r, haeNGga:r], the latter being
somewhat more faithful to the French pronunciation... as usual, British
standard goes further in making the foreign word conform to English

It certainly COULD be a case of "Yiddishizing", if we propose F. [(h)a~ga:r]
 > E. [haeNGg at r] > [haeNG at r] > [haeNGg at r], but shouldn't we give the
"benefit of the doubt" to this NPR commentator, not to mention Occam's
razor, and assume that she either naturally says, or knows enough to use,
the [NGg] form for "hangar"?

What I had asked was if Beverly Flanigan expected New Yorkers to use [NGg]
in the OTHER word (or words), "hanger". Obviously she was surprised to hear
it in "hangar", as she wrote in her original message, and Dave Bergdahl
agreed with that. Neither said anything about "hanger" -- or perhaps neither
realized that the airplane word is spelled differently?

Dave Bergdahl wrote:
"Perhaps it's an extension of the rule that -ngg- is appropriate when the
word is one morpheme (e.g. finger) but inappropriate if the -er is a suffix.
. .and "hanger" is perceived as unrelated to "hang."

It's not just a perception; hangAr -- the word under discussion, until
hangEr was brought up for comparison -- IS (at least historically) unrelated
to "hang"!

I don't think any morphophonological rule, or extension thereof, applies
here. But to discuss it thoroughly really requires getting into the issue of
whether there is a proper phoneme /ng/, or whether all we're talking about
is /n/ plus /g/, where 'plus' could stand for 'no boundary', or any one of
the boundary segments you believe in (remember 'longer' [NGg] vs. 'singer'
[NG], so we can't say [NGg] is inappropriate for a suffixed -er).

Maybe different dialects even have a different inventory of phonemes here. A
Long[g]Island speaker might not have a phoneme /NG/, rather whenever /n g V/
come together the result is [NGgV]. If the accent/dialect is particularly
strongg, /n g/ might come out [NGg] even if a pause follows.

I personally feel I have a separate phoneme /NG/, which I can use to explain
the following minimal pair:

She saw the mango in the store. [maeNGg] -- lax short 'a'
She saw the man go in the store. [mAE~NGg] -- tense short 'a'

But in dialects (Northern Cities, for example) where short 'a' is tense
before [ng] as well as [n], perhaps we can return to the position that there
is no separate phoneme /NG/. And wasn't it a Northern City where someone
wrote that [loNG at r], [fiNG at r] are found?


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