01 August 2013


How do you pronounce longitude?

I have always pronounced it [lɒŋgɪtju:d]; and I have just checked Wells' Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, which confirms that 85% of people in Britain prefer this pronunciation, while 15% opt for [lɒndʒɪtju:d]. It is gratifying to confirm that I am in the majority.

However, I have just watched a short BBC documentary (here) about the development of technology to measure longitude, and the presenter consistently pronounced it as [lɒŋɪtju:d] – i.e. with no [g] at the end of the first syllable. This alternative does not even feature in Wells' dictionary. So did the presenter get it wrong? Or maybe the pronunciation is changing.

Actually, the pronunciation of words with long as the stem is interesting. While most words that end with [ŋ] have no [g] when suffixes are attached (e.g. sing/singer, ring/ringer, cling/clinger, etc), long is an exception, as longer does have [g]. Another exception like this is stronger which also has [g].

However, maybe the announcer is actually following a rule: long/longer involves an inflectional -er comparative suffix; and maybe this suffix behaves differently from the derivational suffix that converts the verb sing to the noun singer. And maybe longitude actually has a derivational suffix on the end, so it should behave like sing/singer rather than long/longer.

Nevertheless, longitude with no [g] in the middle sounds odd to me.