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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 22 16:21:58 UTC 2008

At 10:51 AM -0500 1/22/08, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>Don't you mean the Polish-born linguist Jeanette Gundel?

Oops, my bad.  I never knew.  So we should be pronouncing her name
with an initial y-?


>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: English words beginning with <j> pronounced [Z]?
>>At 10:12 AM -0500 1/22/08, David Bowie wrote:
>>>From:    Nadia Gabriel <nadpaz3 at GMAIL.COM>
>>>>Do you know of words, common word or proper names, in the English language
>>>>that begin with the letter <j> but that are pronounced without the [d]
>>>>sound, just the [Z] sound?
>>>>Or, to put it another way, words where the initial <j> is pronounced as in
>>>My wife's first name is Jeanne [dZi.ni]. A small but noticeable number
>>>of people we know pronounce her name [Zi.ni] at least part of the time.
>>>No idea if it's a hyperforeignization (hyper*re*foreignization, maybe,
>>>given that her name is ultimately but distantly French), but those I've
>>>been able to do under-the-radar lexical elicitation with don't use the
>>>[Z] in words like jail.
>>This probably also comes up with names like "Janine"/"Jeannine" or
>>"Jeanette".  I know a couple of women with the former name who are
>>usually addressed with initial [Z] but they're French- or Swiss-born
>>themselves; the key test would be those with the name but not the
>>background.  The U.S.-born linguist Jeanette Gundel is always [J],
>>not [Z], and ditto the singer Jeanette MacDonald.
>>>Well, i did run across one who talked about drinking juice [Zus], so
>>>maybe there's a high-vowel thing going on? Pretty flimsy evidence to try
>>>to make a generalization on, but it's all i've got.
>>Ah, that brings up another related candidate.  I've never heard
>>anyone who drinks [Zus], but one--in fact two--of the extant
>>pronunciations of "au jus", [o Zu(s)], contain an initial (well, sort
>>of initial) <j> pronounced as [Z].  This is confirmed by the AHD,
>>which however gloss the term as an adverb meaning 'served with the
>>natural juices or gravy', as in "roast beef au jus".  This would
>>still render (heh heh) "au jus" a French term, but it's been
>>reanalyzed in cafeteria English as a noun meaning something like
>>'thin gravy on the side':  Roast beef with au jus.  (Cf. "apple pie
>>with alamode".)  In this case, it's an instance of our holy grail--an
>>English word with a (sort of) initial <j> pronounced (sometimes) as
>>[Z].  (No doubt "with au jus" also gets pronounced as [o Jus]
>>although I would imagine [o Ju] might be avoided for reasons of
>>homonymy, if not taboo, avoidance.)
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Dennis R. Preston
>University Distinguished Professor
>Department of English
>15C Morrill Hall
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing, MI 48824
>preston at msu.edu
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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