'Zh' sound in English

Questions of pronunciation in all languages.
Audiendus
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'Zh' sound in English

Postby Audiendus » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:47 am

The 'zh' sound (voiced 'sh') occurs relatively rarely in native English words, and only in the middle of them. For example:

vision and its compounds, leisure, pleasure, measure, seizure, treasure, exposure, closure, lesion, plosion and its compounds, occasion, casual.

It is not a difficult sound for an English speaker to produce, and the fact that it occurs at all raises the question of why it has not arisen more widely in all the chaotic history of the English language (especially in place names, whose early development was particularly free).

I wonder if there are parallels in other languages, i.e. sounds which do occur in native words, but uncommonly.

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Slava
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Re: 'Zh' sound in English

Postby Slava » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:24 pm

What sound does barge end in? Is it not a zh preceded by a d?
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Audiendus
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Re: 'Zh' sound in English

Postby Audiendus » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:09 pm

Slava wrote:What sound does barge end in? Is it not a zh preceded by a d?

I mean the pure 'zh' sound (not a component of the 'j' sound), as found in borrowings from French such as massage, mirage, cortege and beige.

bnjtokyo
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Re: 'Zh' sound in English

Postby bnjtokyo » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:10 am

There is a detailed discussion here
https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=uGs ... =ʒ&f=false

Some key phrases from the reference at the link
"a late addition to the consonantal inventory of English. It is also the rarest of all English consonants . . . and indeed of all English phonemes. Its distribution is limited to loanwords, except across word boundaries . . . ."

"[ʒ] in loanwords would still be assimilated to the pre-existing /dʒ/. The potential for [dʒ]- pronunciations is reinforced by the very robust historical presence of [dʒ] in core vocabulary words like bridge, edge, ridge, which go back to OE"

"The integration of /ʒ/ in the consonantal system has been progressing gradually in the last centuries as new borrowing continue to introduce the speakers to items with [ʒ-] in initial and final position: zho, 'a Tibetan bovine' (1841), Gitane, Giselle, Zdanovism/ -ist (1957), zhoosh (1977); menage (1325), cortege (1679), espionage (1793), beige (1858) camouflage (1917). The word-initial occurrence of [ʒ] is more restricted and it tends to be more prone to variation between the palatal fricative and the affricate: genre, gendarme, gigolo, georgette show [ʒ] - [dʒ]"

"It is likely that the globalization of English will bring in more /ʒ/- initial words . . . ."
Donka Minkova, Historical Phonology of English

Have a look at the book at the link for more and more and more

Audiendus
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Re: 'Zh' sound in English

Postby Audiendus » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:51 pm

Thank you. That is very detailed and informative.

jerrythebeeguy
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Re: 'Zh' sound in English

Postby jerrythebeeguy » Wed Dec 12, 2018 12:58 pm

"I wonder if there are parallels in other languages, i.e. sounds which do occur in native words ...."

The Zh sound occurs in Quichua very often. In fact, twice in one word such as "allillachu" (meaning "how are you"). Two ells are used in spelling the word because it was the only way for Spaniards to express the sound when they first wrote it in Spanish. Borrowing the word to English, it appears that we brought this use wholesale from Spanish.

In the Andes this very native sound has found it's way into spoken Spanish by Quichua speakers in words that they learned from the invaders such as "rio", which became "zhrio". The capital city of Chimborazo Province is Riobamba, which is most often called Zriobamba by the indigenous peoples. Curiously, the word Riobamba is a mixture of Spanish and Quichua, meaning shallow river. Another native use of the zh sound is demonstrated by the word "Ollantaytambo", pronounced "ozhantaitambo", a very historic town in the high Andes near Machu Picchu.


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