English words beginning with <j> pronounced [Z]?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 21 19:50:13 UTC 2008

At 11:33 AM -0800 1/21/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>I was surprised to learn that people use the "zh" pronunciation for
>"jinrikisha", but sure enough, Merriam-Webster uses that pronunciation:
>I think you've found the only word. I think the historical explanation
>is that the "zh" sound entered English from French after the Norman
>Invasion, but was changed to "j" at the beginning of all words.
>BTW, Your Dictionary (http://www.yourdictionary.com/jinrikisha) has the
>pronunciation spelled as a "j", which is my pronunciation, though I
>can't hear the audio for some reason, so I'm not sure how they intend
>the pronunciation to be.

This is no doubt the hyperforeignism tendency we've discussed, where
all sorts of non-/Z/ words (usually spelled with <j>) end up
pronounced as /Z/ in English:  Taj Mahal, Zhou En-Lai, Beijing, the
Raj,...   In jinrikisha this phenomenon happens to occur initially.
(This is what Margaret Reed (1932) would call an *un*intentional


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