Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 10:27:32 -0700
From: "A. Vine"
Subject: Re: Beijing /j/

Larry Horn wrote:
> At 12:14 AM -0500 5/13/98, Donald M. Lance wrote:
> >>Does anyone know why the j in Beijing is frequently pronounced as if French?
> >>The Mandarin pronunciation is clearly like a "regular" English j, and the
> >>switch from Peking happened recently enough that it shouldn't have gotten
> >>mixed up.
> >
> >For the same reason people say 'machete' and 'Chicano' as if they were
> >French words. Also the -ch- in 'Appalachian', said like 'appelation'. And
> >some other words I can't think of at the moment. Radio and TV announcers
> >seem to have a rule that says "when in doubt, assume French origin." But,
> >when in doubt, -ei- is treated as if it were German. Thirty or so years
> >ago, before news people knew that Brunei existed, I knew someone from
> >there. He said it 'bru-nay'. Now we just hear 'bru-nigh'.
> >
> >DMLance
> Clearly, there's a real phenomenon of generalized "foreign pronunciation"
> that may well encompass the [zh] pronunciation of Beijing. But I'm not
> sure all the above fit under that category. I've usually heard "Chicano"
> with a Spanish affricate rather than a French fricative, but I think
> there's also a phonological process whereby a number of words in which [ch]
> occurs in a totally unstressed syllable is de-affricativized. Consider,
> for example, Chicago (with a [sh]) vs. Chi-town and Chisox ('Chicago White
> Sox') with a [ch]. Or chiropodist, with either initial [k] or [sh], but
> not [ch]. Or cheroot (evidently from Tamil), usually (in my experience)
> [sh] rather than [ch]. I think the key here is not the extension of [+
> French] but the lack of stress on the first syllable; maybe Chicano (in
> losing its [+ Spanish] feature?) is assimilated to this class rather than
> treated as specifically French.
> Larry

Larry, do you really hear "cheroot" that often?

My personal pet peeve is the Frenchising of Italian, most recently a
frozen pizza product called "Di Giorno", which is advertised as though
it were "Di jour no". Don't get me started on the Italian

But could it possible be that it's easier (lazier?) to use the 'zh'
rather than the 'dzh' sound? In the case of "Di Giorno", it's certainly
easier to revert to the 'zh'. Affricates require a tremendous amount of
mouth work, and US speech seems to lean towards minimal mouth movement.

I do concur, though, that Americans are more familiar with French and
German pronunciations than Italian and Russian, and therefore might make
certain assumptions about pronouncing a particular word. Certainly US
English contains more French and German than Italian and Russian.
Interestingly enough, US English tends to be truer to the original
French pronunciation than British English (e.g. Beaulieu, Ypres,
lieutenant). Perhaps it is an island mentality, or a long-standing
history of conflict which causes the Brits to differentiate their