One thing I’ve always found hard about teaching English phonetics is convincing my students that the high front vowel preceding [ŋ] is (lax) [ɪ], not (tense) [i:]. It’s not hard to convince them that there’s no contrast between the two in this context, but no matter how many spectrograms I show them, they’re convinced that the vowel is more like [i:] than it is like [ɪ] — i.e., that bing sounds more like bean than like been. The biggest problem is that I can’t say that I disagree, no matter how many spectrograms have “convinced” me to the contrary.
One trick I’ve sometimes tried to use to convince my students (and myself) is to pronounce an -ing verb form as -in’ — “dropping the g” — and to pay attention to the vowel quality. So, I was out runnin’ ends in [ɪn], not [i:n]. But then I would think: pronounce runnin’ with [i:n] instead of [ɪn]. Sounds a hell of a lot like running, doesn’t it?
I was reminded of this trompe l’oreille the other day when I went to the movies and saw this trailer for Evening. At the end of the trailer, the narrator (in that generic husky male voice that seems to be characteristic of many indie-ish movie trailers) pronounces the title of the movie pretty distinctly as [i:vni:n]. The tense vowel quality is (I’m guessing) enough to fool most English-speaking listeners into hearing an [ŋ], even though tense vs. lax high vowels are basically distinctive before [n].
I’ve extracted the audio of the single word here, and here’s a spectrogram:
(The more I listen, the more it sounds like [i:vneɪn] …)
A major caveat is that the trailer-narrator’s voice is clearly edited and superimposed on some music, and so it’s conceivable that it may have been edited in such a way as to make an actual [ŋ] sound/look like a virtual [n]. (By removing the velar pinch? I’ve tried in vain to replicate this, but only for a few minutes using Praat and my laptop’s internal mic.) Still, it seems pretty clear that an [i:]-ish quality before an alveolar nasal (in final syllables of bisyllabic or longer words?) can fool English-speaking listeners into hearing a velar nasal instead.