16

The word "baked" is pronounced as:

/ˈbeɪkt/

While "naked" is pronounced as:

/ˈneɪkɪd/

Why are these two words not pronounced the same?

11

This is a reflection of the Great Vowel Shift, a change in the pronunciation of English which occurred gradually from the mid-1300's to about 1700 (and which helps explain some of the weirdness of English spelling :-). As I understand it, before the vowel shift the "a" in "bake" and "nake" (yes, "nake" is a verb in English, meaning "to bare or uncover", although it's hardly ever used in its present tense form today) would have been a short vowel sound, and the trailing "e" would have been pronounced - thus, "bake" would have been pronounced "bah'-keh" and "nake" would have been pronounced "nah'-keh", with the past tenses being "bah'-ked" and "nah'-ked". (That's why those trailing "e"s are there in English - at the time spelling was being standardized in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries those "e"s were still being pronounced :-). As part of the vowel shift, the "a"s changed to a long vowel and the trailing 'e' was silenced, leading to todays pronunciations of "bayk" and "nayk" for the present tense, but while the past tense of "bake" ("baykt") was shortened the same did not happen for the past tense of "nake" ("nay'-ked"). The difference in the past tense forms can, I think, be attributed to frequency of use - as "bake" is much more commonly used than "nake", the past tense form of the former was shortened while the past tense form of the latter was not.

  • 1
    In Shakespeare, past-participles used as adjectives tend to have a separate syllable for the "ed", but those used as verbs don't. Many words have merged the forms, but some retain them, such as "wick" and "crooked". – supercat Oct 1 '14 at 19:12
7

The word "baked" is a past participle, like "picked", and those are generally pronounced with kt. The word "naked", however, is purely an adjective (you might see some uses of the verb "to nake" which would suggest it's a participle, but they're generally obsolete and/or local), like "crooked" or "wicked", and you'll hear kɪd there.

It does seem, however, that the line between those two is getting blurry. You're usually better off just remembering the pronunciation as if there were no rule.

  • 5
    English is a set of very strict rules regarding spelling and pronunciation, each with the caveat "except when it isn't" at the end of each one. – corsiKa Oct 1 '14 at 17:04
  • The few rules that a native English speaker will remember from childhood are more often broken than adhered to: "i before e except after c" for example. – OJFord Oct 1 '14 at 18:40
  • @OllieFord That's definitely weird. – BrianH Oct 1 '14 at 18:55
  • In "The felt wicked up the fluid" or "she crooked her finger to draw his attention", I don't hear "kɪd". – supercat Oct 1 '14 at 19:14
  • At least in some dialects, it's even pronounced "nek-ed", not "nayk-ed". And even if other dialects do pronounce the first vowel differnetly, the fact that the e isn't silent is still an exception to the norm. Regardless of dialect, "naked" is just an irregularly pronounced word, such as the word "one", whereas "baked" isn't. – Panzercrisis Oct 1 '14 at 19:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.