Who rhymes the words ‘singer’ and ‘finger’?

Previous findings

Wells finds that although most speakers pronounce singer with a velar nasal /ŋ/, the word is sometimes pronounced the same as finger, with a /ŋɡ/ consonant cluster. This is termed ‘velar nasal plus’, and is said to occur in the accents of the West Midlands and the North, such as Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield (1982: 365).

Our findings

Our findings seem to support those of Wells (1982): singer and finger rhyme for 97% of northern speakers, and for 90% of those in the West Midlands. This is in contrast with the South, where only 54% of speakers reportedly rhyme these words. This figure is still surprisingly high, but this is likely down to respondents not noticing the subtle nature of the /ŋ/-/ŋɡ/ alternation and therefore misreporting their pronunciation of singer. There is recent evidence to suggest that even many northern speakers aren’t aware of this feature in their own dialects.