Hangar / Hanger
Dennis R. Preston
preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jul 24 12:08:09 UTC 1999
There are many interesting issues here (including the old one of whether
our friend /ng/ is a phoneme at all (as it pretty clearly was not in older
English). I was not sufficiently clear, however, in my "rule" for /ng/ +
morphemic -er. I did not mean all -er morphemes (as longer, stronger,
etc...) show. I mean the "agent" and "used for" -er of singer and hanger
(for clothes, but apparently not airplanes, although I ahve completely
folk-etymologized the airplane one to, perhaps to mean something like "a
place where planes hang out").
While the Northern Cities are indeed one of the homes of tense /ae/
("bag"), so is almost all of the Midwest and Upper South (in all of the
acoustic data I havce seen), so it is unlikely that that fact is
exaplnatory for the few Northern Cities areas metnioned earlier (esepcially
since it seem prpductive in Northern Cities areas like Milwaukee in which a
specific substrate (e.g., German) can be pointed to for other (e.g.,
syntactic) froms as well.
>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
>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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Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
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