Pronunciation of Beijing

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Wed Sep 25 04:42:43 UTC 2002

Peter McGraw was correct in pointing out that the <j> in Pinyin represents
an affricate, not a fricative. The fricative pronunciation burst upon the
scene in 1989 during the Tian An Men Square uprising, when American
journalists (including all of the big network anchors) flew to the scene
and started relying on some bad pronunciation advice (or more likely, let
their visual bias get in the way of correctly "hearing" the input). Prior
to that, of course, the older Wade-Giles transliteration <Peking> had been
misinterpreted according to English spelling rules as /piykIng/ (here /ng/
indicates the velar nasal only). The only Chinese I have ever heard use
the fricative pronunciation was Winston Lord's wife, who was interviewed
on CBS at the time; I was amazed, but concluded that either she was one of
those who had misinformed the journalists, or that, being Chinese, she
didn't want to embarrass them in public, and so adopted their
misinterpretation. It is refreshing to hear TV journalists nowadays
occasionally adopting the accurate affricate; maybe the fricative, which
as Peter points out does not even exist in Mandarin Chinese, will
eventually disappear. I suspect Peter and others who have suggested that
the fricative is a hyper-foreign reaction to the letter <j>, which is
assigned a pseudo-French value in mysterious foreign words, are right in
their analysis.


P.S. Notice that most English speakers still follow the English
interpretation of the Wade-Giles transliteration of <Taipei>, which in
Pinyin would be <Taibei>, with the second part being the same morpheme (=
'North') as in <Beijing>.


Date:    Tue, 24 Sep 2002 00:03:46 -0500
From:    Herbert Stahlke <hstahlke at WORLDNET.ATT.NET>
Subject: /zh/ replacing /dzh/?

I've noticed for some time that many of my students and a lot of =
newsreaders and sports announcers, local, cable, and network, are =
replacing certain cases of /dzh/ with /zh/.  I first noticed it with =
proper nouns like Beijing and Elijah, which are now regularly pronounced =
with palato-alveolar fricatives rather than affricates.  This evening a =
newsreader on MSNBC did the same replacement with "siege".  That's the =
first case I've noticed in a word that wasn't a name and/or foreign =

Herb Stahlke



Date:    Tue, 24 Sep 2002 08:57:08 -0700
From:    "Peter A. McGraw" <pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU>
Subject: Re: /zh/ replacing /dzh/?

The j Beijing is the pinyin spelling for an alveolar or alveopalatal
affricate, not a fricative (which Mandarin Chinese doesn't have).  I don't
think there is a change in progress in this case--just an assumption on the
part of many Americans that any foreign language should sound as much like
French as possible.

Peter Mc.

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