American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

The nasal consonants of AN and GA are:

  bilabial alveolar velar
voiced m n  ŋ

In both languages, the palatal nasal [ɲ] may arise as a result of the assimilation before [j]. (It is not considered a phoneme of either AN or GA because its occurrence is predictable by context.) In Dutch, [ɲ] occurs in franje, kun je. In GA this consonant may occur in words like canyon and onion.


Nasals are similar to vowels in that, depending on the context they may be long or short. The duration of GA nasals (and /l/) varies considerably. In a long context, i.e. before lenis obstruents and when final, nasals are fully long. In a short context, i.e. before a fortis obstruent, they tend to be quite short or, more frequently, elided, leaving a nasalized vowel.

There is no instance of /n/ deletion after /ə/ in GA as there is in some dialects of Dutch, as in lopen [loˑpə]. So make sure you pronounce a firm /n/ in delicatessen, Staten Island, /ˈstætn̩ ˈaɪlənd/.

Staten Island

In unaccented syllables, final -ing in GA is frequently pronounced /ən/ or /ɪn/ in informal styles, as in trying [ˈtraɪən, ˈtraɪɪn] (This pronunciation is often indicated in informal texts or dialogues by the spelling tryin’, but it must be noted that this is informal speech.)

Following /t, d/ syllabic /n/ may be heard, as in eatin’, ridin’ [ˈiːʔn̩, ˈraɪdn̩]. This substitution is not limited to the present participle ending, but affects all -ing sequences in weak syllables, which would therefore include words like pudding, Washington, lightning, but not shoestring.