Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

Why so much variation in the letter "j"?

 Language Learning Forum : Philological Room Post Reply
20 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
IronFist
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5353 days ago

663 posts - 941 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 
 Message 1 of 20
18 August 2012 at 7:15am | IP Logged 
This post is made from an English perspective.

In Spanish it's an H.

In German it's a Y.

In French it's a Zh kinda thing (Portuguese, too?)

In English it's a J.

Why is there so much variation?

Compare to other letters, which are pretty much always the same.

What makes J so special that it gets pronounced differently in different languages?


1 person has voted this message useful



vonPeterhof
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Russian FederationRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3688 days ago

715 posts - 1527 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 2 of 20
18 August 2012 at 9:14am | IP Logged 
J was originally just an alternative form of I. At some point they became separate letters - I for the Latin I vowel (i/ee in English) and J for the Latin I consonant (consonantal y in English). The thing is that when the Romance languages started to diverge the consonantal J sound shifted to different sounds in the various languages. IIRC it was [dʒ] in Old French (the English J sound) and [ʒ] in Old Spanish and Portuguese (the zh sound). Then it further changed to [x] (the harsh h sound) in Spanish and to [ʒ] in French. English borrowed the usage of J from Old French, but it didn't go through the same phonetic change, so it retained the older pronunciation. German (and, AFAIK, most European non-Romance languages) just use the original Latin pronunciation.

Edit: It's also interesting to note how the letter R has about as much variation in its pronuncations, if not more, and yet all those pronunciations are perceived as equivalent (at least as far as European languages are concerned).

Edited by vonPeterhof on 18 August 2012 at 9:22am

16 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 3623 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 3 of 20
18 August 2012 at 9:19am | IP Logged 
Yeah, Dutch and Swedish retain it.
1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5513 days ago

9753 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 4 of 20
18 August 2012 at 9:41am | IP Logged 
So does Finnish. Indonesian uses it the English way, btw.
Nice to see you refer to the Spanish sound as h. to me the English/Scandinavian/Finnish h is as similar to the German ch/Spanish j/Russian x as much as the Slavic hard and soft consonants are similar to each other. It's variation, not entirely different sounds!!!
2 persons have voted this message useful



Levi
Pentaglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4483 days ago

2268 posts - 3328 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Esperanto, German, Spanish
Studies: Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, Italian

 
 Message 5 of 20
18 August 2012 at 12:43pm | IP Logged 
Even within Spanish, you find a variety of sounds for J, ranging between a soft /h/ sound like English H, to the hard guttural /χ/ sound as in German "naCH", depending on the dialect of the speaker.

Edited by Levi on 18 August 2012 at 12:44pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5513 days ago

9753 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 6 of 20
18 August 2012 at 12:49pm | IP Logged 
Also, the English sound for J isn't as..significant in many languages. It may be less common or barely present. Especially then, it makes sense to use it for a sound which is more common in a given language. The Latin alphabet is just used for plenty of various languages.
1 person has voted this message useful



ReQuest
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Netherlands
Joined 3948 days ago

200 posts - 228 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, German, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 7 of 20
18 August 2012 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
Indonesian used to write Jakarta as Djakarta. (due to us, the Dutch).
But to make Indonesian and Malasian spelling more similar, and I guess to "dedutchify" spelling, they changed it.

Edited by ReQuest on 18 August 2012 at 4:30pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Pisces
Bilingual Pentaglot
Senior Member
Finland
Joined 3538 days ago

143 posts - 284 votes 
Speaks: English*, Finnish*, French, SwedishC1, Esperanto
Studies: German, Spanish, Russian

 
 Message 8 of 20
20 August 2012 at 4:13pm | IP Logged 
J was originally a variant of I (obvious if you look at it). "I"/"Y" easily become "J" sounds, for example in the English "soldier" or in phrases like "did you". There's a joke in a Woody Allen movie about the latter: the Woody Allen character is paranoid and thinks someone is saying "did Jew" instead of "did you".


1 person has voted this message useful



This discussion contains 20 messages over 3 pages: 2 3  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 10.0391 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2021 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.