How do you pronounce aged?
It depends on where it stands in the sentence. If it is used attributively, before a noun, meaning ‘(very) old’, then it has two syllables, ˈeɪdʒɪd (or, for some, ˈeɪdʒəd). This is what you say in an aged woman or my aged parents. It is also the pronunciation we use in, for example, care of the aged, where you could argue that it is used attributively before a deleted (understood) noun people.
But when it is used predicatively, meaning ‘having a specific age’, then it is pronounced as a monosyllable, eɪdʒd. This is what you say in children aged 5 or over or a man aged between 30 and 35.
There are one or two other -ed words that vary in the same fashion, notably blessed. Attributively, disyllabic: a moment of blessed silence; where’s my blessed notebook? Predicatively, monosyllabic: we’re both blessed with good health; the couple had their marriage blessed (by the vicar). Against this rule, however, in the hymn Our blessed redeemer, ere he breathed | his tender last farewell the word has to be pronounced as a monosyllable despite being attributive.
There’s also accursed, which for me is always əˈkɜːsɪd. But others always say əˈkɜːst. Others again may vary as with aged and blessed. In modern English, though, the word is really only used attributively: we say all this accursed mud, but not ?all this mud is accursed.
As we all know, there are a few adjectives in -ed in which the ending is irregularly pronounced as a separate syllable, i.e. against the rule that this pronunciation belongs only after stems ending in t or d. Examples are crooked, learned, naked, rugged, wicked, wretched, all disyllabic. (But as verb forms, crooked and learned are monosyllabic: she crooked krʊkt her finger, he learned lɜːnd what had happened.)
Derived forms in -edly and -edness seem mostly to have the syllabic pronunciation. So markedly and markedness have three syllables each, while supposedly and allegedly have four. But there are also those that have a nonsyllabic ed: determinedly, ill-favouredness, good-naturedness. I think shamefacedly can go either way.
I heard Judge Judy on television speaking of someone’s əˈledʒɪd crime. But I think we normally say əˈledʒd, and that her pronunciation (possibly a one-off slip) was a back-formation from allegedly. So when she said your alleged striking of the defendant with trisyllabic alleged she was thinking of the underlying unnominalized you allegedly struck the defendant.
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This blog will be suspended for the month of August. During this time I may possibly see some of you face-to-face at the UCL Summer Course in English Phonetics in London or at the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Hong Kong.
Next posting: 1 September.