Gujarati: ઝ - jh or z?

Pokeflute

Senior Member
English - American
How is exactly ઝ pronounced in Gujarati? I'm getting very conflicting answers.

As a kid I was taught ઝ was pronounced "jha" (analogous to Hindi झ). And this mostly lines up with my experience (ઝાડ - jhaaR - tree; ઝાડુ - jhaaRoo - broom).

However, many online materials list the pronunciation as "za" (i.e. Hindi ज़). To get "ઝ" from Google Input you type "z" (typing "jh" produces "જઃ"). This site romanizes it as "jha" but in the recordings the speakers clearly say "za".

What's confusing is I wasn't aware Gujarati even had a "za" sound. In my experience, Hindi/Urdu words with a "z" correspond to "j" in Gujarati (e.g., મેજ - mej - table; મજા - majaa - fun). English loanwords with a "z" however, appear to be written with a ઝ (e.g., ઝીબ્રા - ziibraa - zebra), but I'm not sure how they are pronounced? (I think I've heard "z", "j" and "jh" all from different speakers).

So I suppose:

1. Is ઝ usually pronounced "jh" or "z" or both?
2. If both, are the pronunciations interchangeable? Or is the situation comparable to Hindi (i.e., many speakers maintain a distinction, but some speakers merge them both into one sound?)
3. Is જ઼ ever used (like with Hindi ज़)? If so how does it compare to ઝ?
 
  • [...] In my experience, Hindi/Urdu words with a "z" correspond to "j" in Gujarati (e.g., મેજ - mej - table; મજા - majaa - fun). [...]

    (I have no knowledge of Persian or Arabic, but anyway.) Some naturalized Persian words with z take j in Gujarati and z in Hindi: જમીન, ज़मीन "land", જોર, ज़ोर "strength", મેજ, मेज़ "table", સબજી, सब्ज़ी "vegetable".

    However, many Arabic and Persian words with z take jh in Gujarati, corresponding to z in Hindi. Some words can be spelled with either jh or j (for this I have consulted Deshpande, ગુજરાતી-અંગ્રેજી કોશ, 3,2019):

    અઝાન or અજાન, આઝાન, अज़ान "Muslim call for prayer"
    મજા or મઝા, मज़ा "happiness"
    આઝાદ, आज़ाद "Free"
    ઝમઝમ, ज़मज़म "Zamzam, The holy well in Mecca"
    ઝંદવસ્ત, ઝંદવેસ્ત "Zend Avesta"
     
    Last edited:

    Pokeflute

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Interesting!

    For a word like મઝા, would it be pronounced "mazaa" or "majhaa"? I guess what I'm asking is - is ઝ here used for a "z" sound, or a "jh" sound?

    If it's the latter then my hypothesis is:

    a. Gujarati theoretically has 3 distinct sounds: "j" (written જ), "jh" (written ઝ), and "z" (also written ઝ).
    b. Perso-Arabic words with "z" either keep a "z" or replace the "z" with a "j", with both spelling and pronunciation varying by speaker
    c. English words with a "z" either keep a "z" or replace the "z" with a "jh"

    I know Standard Hindi/Urdu distinguishes "j" and "z" (many Hindi speakers do merge both into "j" but this carries a certain stereotype). I wonder if a similar stereotype exists in Gujarati...
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    1. Is ઝ usually pronounced "jh" or "z" or both?
    2. If both, are the pronunciations interchangeable? Or is the situation comparable to Hindi (i.e., many speakers maintain a distinction, but some speakers merge them both into one sound?)
    3. Is જ઼ ever used (like with Hindi ज़)? If so how does it compare to ઝ?
    1. "jh"
    2. Gujarati mainly has "j" and "jh": there's no "z."
    3. No જ઼.
     

    desi4life

    Senior Member
    English
    According to the Wikipedia article on Gujarati phonology:

    Some speakers maintain [z] as well for Persian and English borrowings. Persian's /z/'s have by and large been transposed to /dʒ/ and /dʒʱ/: /dʒindɡi/ ('life') and /tʃidʒʱ/ ('thing'). The same cannot be so easily said for English: /tʃiz/ ('cheese').
     

    Pokeflute

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Interesting. @littlepond, I've come across some speakers online (I had linked Youtube videos but they were taken down unfortunately) who pronounce "jhaaRoo" as "zaaRoo". I take it from your comment that this is not very common, then.

    I imagine then that this speech is seen as non-standard or is associated with a particular group of speakers.

    @desi4life thank you for pointing this out. Given that "z" in Hindi-Urdu is merged into "j" (for speakers who merge them), I wonder why some words became "jh" and others stayed "j".
     

    desi4life

    Senior Member
    English
    If you listen to the following video, the Gujarati instructor seems to suggest જ is always “ja”, but that ઝ can be either “jha” or “za”. I don’t know much Gujarati so I didn’t fully understand the video, but hopefully someone fluent in the language can provide more details about exactly what she said:

    youtube.com/watch?v=Vq4NsiuK0UY
     
    [...] Given that "z" in Hindi-Urdu is merged into "j" (for speakers who merge them), I wonder why some words became "jh" and others stayed "j".
    I suggest that the "Urdu" words with j are
    1) Persian (not Arabic)
    2) naturalized and fully integrated into Gujarati
    3) In common use (most of them).

    To the list જમીન, ज़मीन "land", જોર, ज़ोर "strength", મેજ, मेज़ "table", સબજી, सब्ज़ी "vegetable"
    can be added બજાર [sic], बाज़ार, and many more.
     
    Last edited:

    desi4life

    Senior Member
    English
    I suggest that the "Urdu" words with j are
    1) Persian (not Arabic)
    2) naturalized and fully integrated into Gujarati
    3) In common use (most of them).

    To the list જમીન, ज़मीन "land", જોર, ज़ोर "strength", મેજ, मेज़ "table", સબજી, सब्ज़ी "vegetable"
    can be added બજાર [sic], बाज़ार, and many more.

    They can be Persian or Arabic. For example, જ્યાદા (jyaadaa) < ziyaadah is of Arabic origin. Indo-Aryan languages don’t differentiate between Persian and Arabic loans in terms of how they are adapted into the target language. The Arabic origin words are usually via Persian anyway. So they are often interchangeably called Perso-Arabic or Persian or even “Urdu” words.
     
    You are right, and I stand corrected. (Perhaps it can be said that most of the Perso-Arabic words with z that are spelled with j in Gujarati are fully integrated loanwords, whereas most of the Perso-Arabic words with z that are spelled with jh in Gujarati are perceived as foreign words in Gujarati.)
     

    Pokeflute

    Senior Member
    English - American
    If you listen to the following video, the Gujarati instructor seems to suggest જ is always “ja”, but that ઝ can be either “jha” or “za”. I don’t know much Gujarati so I didn’t fully understand the video, but hopefully someone fluent in the language can provide more details about exactly what she said:

    youtube.com/watch?v=Vq4NsiuK0UY

    My very rough translation of the relevant parts of video (English letters in uppercase, Gujarati sounds in lower case). But someone who's Gujarati is better than mine, please feel free to correct me.

    (Points to જ) Look, this is "ja", the "ja" in "jamaNR". "ja" as in "apNRe jamie chie" (we are eating). The "ja" in "janam" or "jamaNR". For this, in English we use the letter "J". Whatever word starts (in English) with "J", you say "ja".

    <describes how to write the character જ, and some writing exercise for her students to do>

    (Points to ઝ) Now this is a new letter, "za". (points to જ) this is "ja" and (points to ઝ) this is "za". The "jh" in "jhalak", the "jh" in "jhabhloo". This (letter) is called "jh".

    <describes how to write the character ઝ>

    For ઝ in English we use two letters "Z" (NB: she pronounces this as "jeD") and "JH". Whenever an English word begins with "Z" ("jeD") you say "za". And we also use "JH" like the the name "jhaanvii", which starts with "JH".

    <she describes some writing exercise for her students>

    Based on this, I'd imagine she considers "jh" and "z" the same sound. The fact that she calls "Z" "jeD" is also intriguing to me.

    But also it seems her target audience was little children, so it's totally possible she knows the difference (and is simplifying for her students).

    (Perhaps it can be said that most of the Perso-Arabic words with z that are spelled with j in Gujarati are fully integrated loanwords, whereas most of the Perso-Arabic words with z that are spelled with jh in Gujarati are perceived as foreign words in Gujarati.)

    This seems like the answer IMO, with the caveat that there are speakers that don't use "z" at all (e.g., my family, and also littlepond's experience).
     
    Top