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The Pronunciation of Django (thoughtstreams.io)
33 points by jtauber 1787 days ago | hide | past | web | 55 comments | favorite

This is a pretty ridiculous claim in my mind.

You start with the premise that the "Dj" in Django sounds like the "J" in James or Jason or jangle or nearly every other English word with this pronunciation. Now, based on linguistic history and French pronunciation norms, you claim it is more appropriate to conclude that all of these other words have implied "D's" than to conclude that Django has a silent "D".

You might be right that the pronunciation of James with a phonetic /dʒ/ sound is a historical oddity, but it doesn't make your conclusions any more valid. If the J in James and the J in Japan and the J in jerk and the Dj in Django all sound like /dʒ/ the conclusion should be that the D is silent in English, not that the French are more correct than we are.

From a french speaker point of view, it doesn't makes sense indeed.

It's interesting to note that in the french trailer, Django says "Django – Avec un D" (Django, with a D). Also the trailer is much more graphic than the (censored?) U.S. one

It just occurs to me: does French even have the affricate /d͡ʒ/ natively? Do some native French speakers pronounce "Django" with an initial /ʒ/? That actually would be a silent D and would explain why the French would say "Django with a D" rather than "the D is silent"

Not that I can think of. French people will correctly pronounce foreign words with /d͡ʒ/ if they are adopted in the french language (James, jingle or the arabic word jinn), but no french word beginning with J will be pronounced /d͡ʒ/. And no frenchman will ever pronounce Django as /ʒɑ̃ɡo/.

I think that they had to come up with something to replace "the D is silent" in the trailer, because it wouldn't make sense in french. For example the H is silent in french, wich explain the french accent on english words ("Ello 'Arry").

If you're trying to explain why /dʒɑ̃ɡo/ is spelled <Django>, it's far more insightful to explain /d/ -> <d> and /ʒ/ -> <j> than to posit the <d> comes from nowhere and is just silent.

In English, the grapheme "d" very commonly represents the sound /d/. Likewise, the grapheme "j" in English very commonly represents the sound /dʒ/.

Additionally /dʒ/ is a single distinct sound. There is no /d/ sound in /dʒ/. It's an unfortunate issue that IPA notation might make it appear as though /dʒ/ is the concatenation (borrowing a programming term) of /d/ and /ʒ/ when it is most certainly not. The author's assertion might make sense if affricates such as dʒ represented multiple sounds, but I am not aware of any linguists that subscribe to such an idea.

So when we say "the D is silent" in the word Django to other English speakers, we are implying that there is no /d/ sound at the start of the word, and that would be correct. The author's argument does not make any sense here.

More careful IPA emphasizes this by not transcribing it as the sequence of characters /dʒ/, though doing so is still common. For a while the solution was to use a ligature, /ʤ/, to emphasize that it was a single consonant, not a sequence of two consonants, but that was typographically to difficult to distinguish from /dʒ/, so now /d͡ʒ/ is preferred, using the generic IPA kludge for "these two characters should be treated as one".

Yeah, I didn't bother with /d͡ʒ/ (incidentally, neither does Wikipedia in their pronunciation of Django Reinhardt's name) because my main point was to explain the origin of the <d> in the name "Django".

I honestly don't think people who say "the D is silent" are making a distinction between the true affricate and /dʒ/.

Saying "the D is silent" is missing the most sensible explanation for why the name "Django" is spelled that way: namely that the <j> would normally be pronounced /ʒ/ in French (not sure about Romani).

While the affricate /d͡ʒ/ is not pronounced as a separate stop+fricative, it can result from the combining of the stop and the fricative and that is presumably what is behind the choice of "dj" as a digraph for representing /d͡ʒ/ in Django.

This article may be of interest to you; "Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage" by David Foster Wallace: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html. The relevant argument is that general consensus and what people actually use constitutes how words should be used/pronounced, as opposed to referencing laws.

Almost every linguist (myself included) would agree. I'm not arguing about how the word is pronounced, I'm arguing about the description of how it's pronounced.

o rlly?

Prescriptive grammars exits to teach poor people (or immigrants) how to speak and write like rich people. Rules are easier to teach and learn than an essentially unlimited number of examples. Some people say this is good - it makes it harder to discriminate against poor people. Some people say it is bad, because it reinforces the idea that poor people speak in an uneducated way.

Let's be frank - neither side can be trusted. They aren't interested in quantitative arguments, or logic, or a rigorous historical study. They'll just line up a bunch of emotive arguments, and then claim that their side rings true (because to them, it does).

>The relevant argument is that general consensus and what people actually use constitutes how words should be used/pronounced, as opposed to referencing laws.

Of course. "Let the use of words teach you their meaning," and so on. But when it comes to names, all bets are off. Names are a special case; prescription still holds sway over them. At least, I think most people would agree that you (the indefinite you) aren't wrong to correct someone who mispronounces your name. To varying extents, this is true also of the names of things.

I wrote a little on this topic many years ago on my blog: http://jtauber.com/blog/2008/04/30/grammar_rules/

I'm trying to start a movement to kill the mess that are 'participe passé'. My idea is that if everybody ALWAYS accord them, then we won't have to bother whether it's with 'avoir', 'être' or whatever else. We would always put an 's' to plural forms, and forget those evil 'participe passé' rules.

Join me. The more we are, the more Right we become.

Interesting choice of article, considering DFW himself was closer to the prescriptivist side (Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance and all that).

As a linguistics student, I don't like this argument. Orthographic <j> in English represents the affricate /dʒ/, which is unambiguously a phoneme in English. <J> by itself (generally) represents /dʒ/, so the <d> doesn't contribute any additional phonetic content to the word, so you could, in fact, call it a "silent" <d>. French has a phoneme /ʒ/, written <j>, but, lacking the affricate /dʒ/, has to represent that sound as a sequence of a /d/ and a /ʒ/, hence, <dj>. But when we're talking about an Anglicized name written and pronounced by English-speakers why should what French does be of any relevance?

We're talking about a web framework named after a Belgian with a Romani nickname whose creator (the web framework's) desires that the web framework be pronounced the same as its namesake. If it were truly Anglicized, you would expect it to be spelled "Jango".

So how can we best analyze why it is spelled <Dj-> and yet pronounced /dʒ-/?

Either it's because:

1. <d> is silent and <j> is /dʒ/; or 2. <d> is pronounced /d/ and <j> is pronounced /ʒ/

2 seems by far the more perspicuous analysis to me given the absence of other examples of a silent <d>. And it's certainly the correct analysis in the case of the guitarist.

I'd say it was because "dj" in the original language is like how the English say "j" in "james", and "j" in the original language is a much softer "j", like in "j'adore".

This is the clearest explanation yet. At the beginning of a word in English, orthographic <j> is virtually always pronounced /dʒ/.

Yes, but that is irrelevant to why Django Reinhardt spelled his name with a D.

The letters "j" in English and "dj" in French represent the same sound†, what Wikipedia calls the "voiced palato-velolar affricate" [0]. That's /dʒ/ in IPA.

In English orthography, yes, the "D" in "Django"is silent, at least in the sense that if you remove it from the French spelling you'll get the phonetic English spelling.

† — as well as "dzh" ["дж"] in Russian, etc.

0. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_palato-alveolar_affricat...

But if you're trying to explain why Django is spelled the way it is, it's far more insightful to explain /d/ -> <d> and /ʒ/ -> <j> than to posit the <d> comes from nowhere and is just silent.

It is much easier to explain it the way everybody else in this thread (such as has pash's sibling comment) been explaining it, judging from the confusion and befuddlement people seem to be expressing.

I haven't seen anyone else explain why Django is spelled with a D. All I've seen is people reiterate the reason for the pronunciation given the spelling as "the D is silent" rather than the more insightful fact that, far from being silent, the D was necessary for Django Reinhardt to express the pronunciation of his nickname in his native language.

I fail to see how pash's comment does not explain that:

"the English "j" and the French "dj" represent the same sound"

Well, firstly that comment postdates your initial comment that "everybody else in this thread" explains it better and you added the "(such as has pash's sibling comment)" after I'd responded.

Secondly, I wanted to dive in a bit more and explain the relationship between the "j" in English vs French and hence the role of the "d" in the French spelling (as that's kind of the whole point).

Ah, I think you've hit on the major point of confusion.

Phoneticists commonly represent the English "j" sound as the amalgam of two separate sounds:

(a) English "d", a common enough sound; and

(b) the somewhat less common "zh" sound, the second consonant sound in "beige".

In French†, these two sounds are separately written as "d" and "j", and combined (try it—speak quickly) they make the English "j" sound.

This is what everyone has been trying to explain with the unfortunately obscure IPA references.

† – Likewise in other languages, per my examples above. For example, in Russian, the two sounds are separately denoted "д" and "ж" and combine to form the English "j" sound, as in "Джугашвили" (which is Georgian, really: "ჯუღაშვილი").

I'm not sure what the confusion is. I agree with what you've said above.

Basically: 1. "d" in French is pronounced "d". 2. "j" in French is pronounced "zh". 3. "dj" in French is pronounced as the same affricate you get by combining "d" and "zh". 4. This is a better explanation for the "dj" in Django rather than saying the "j" is an affricate and the "d" is silent.

In my view, it's simpler to explain that the English "j" and the French "dj" represent the same sound ... and leave out all the slashes and brackets and arrows and whatnot.

This is in reference to Tarantino's recently-released movie "Django Unchained": http://news.moviefone.com/2012/06/06/django-unchained-traile...

Only Django devs are likely to care about this, as air-traffic controllers howling at the inanity of the Top Gun fly-by (or, closer to home, every 3D representation of hacking in movies ever).

It's not silent in French. In English, it is. It's pronounced the same way as the J in James, which happens to be my name.

To paraphrase Ron Jeffries, the D in my name is silent... and invisible.

In French 'j' carries /ʒ/ and the digraph 'dj' carries /d͡ʒ/. In English, 'j' carries /d͡ʒ/ and there's no consistent orthographic convention for just /ʒ/ ('si', 'zh', 'j', and 'z' all do the job in different contexts, and probably others as well). There isn't really a /d/ as such in /d͡ʒ/.

Right, but the best explanation for why "Django" is spelled with a <d> is not that the <d> is silent and the <j> represents /d͡ʒ/ but rather that, as you say, the diagraph <dj> represents /d͡ʒ/.

Yes, but when somebody says "the d is silent" they're giving directions to spell and pronounce this word in English, not a lesson in French etymology. Your cure is worse than the disease.

Is this a deliberately confusing explanation?

"... this falsehood perpetuated on the big screen in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained where the eponymous character spells his name, adding 'the D is silent'."


"The D is not silent, it's very much pronounced."


"... Tarantino's film teaches the correct pronunciation ... it is incorrect to say 'the D is silent'."


"But in French, /dʒ/ can be written 'dj' because the 'j' alone is just /ʒ/."

OK, if the "d" is not silent, don't you mean that /dʒ/ must be written "dj"?

Why not just say that, in English, "j" as in "James" has the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, so it always sounds a little like a "d", but in French it doesn't?

/dʒ/ doesn't have to be be written "dj" (it isn't in English, for example). It just is written that way in French because "j" alone is just /ʒ/ (as you quote above).

When you ask "why not just say...", well that is pretty much what I say in the first sentence of the third card.

I find this even more confusing.

#1: You preface that sentence with "But in French" so why mention English? Can /dʒ/ actually be written some other way than "dj" in French? From your post, it seems like the answer is no.

#2: The first paragraph of the third card neither mentions nor implies (to the non-linguists among us, at least) anything about English "j" having a hint of "d". This is something I'd never realized before, and only discovered it by saying "James" aloud a few times after this post; and I'm still not 100% sure that it's right, based on the post.

Now that's a confusing explanation! Most Python programmers I've met have pronounced it "duh-jango", and I thought this article was going to defend that pronunciation. But it actually says that pronunciation is wrong, and the D is, from an English speaker's perspective, silent. But because J is pronounced differently in French, saying that the D is silent is, although it leads English speakers to pronounce the name correctly, technically semantically incorrect.

...Did I get that right?

The reason "Django" is pronounced /​dʒɑ̃ɡo/ or /dʒæŋɡəʊ/ is not because the "D" is silent and the "j" is pronounced /dʒ/ but rather because the "D" is pronounced /d/ and the "j" is pronounced /ʒ/.

Explaining how to pronounce it by saying "the D is silent" might be helpful but it's technically incorrect.

It may seem like pedantry to many but I thought people with an interest in linguistics might find it helpful.

That's not a precisely correct explanation either, though, because English 'j', pronounced /d͡ʒ/, is a single consonant sound (a voiced palato-alveolar affricate), not a sequence of two consonants. Though it's true that it's what English speakers would produce if you asked them to pronounce /d/ + /ʒ/ in sequence, because they always collapse into the single consonant. Not sure if that's also true in French.

Right, I didn't bother making the distinction between the true affricate /d͡ʒ/ and the sequence /dʒ/ because my main point was that the <d> exists in <Django> because <j> alone would be pronounced /ʒ/ and hence the <d> isn't a silent letter but exists explicitly to contrast /d͡ʒ/ with /ʒ/

Ah yeah, that makes sense to me. Even if you treat 'd' as a kind of modifier in French (it turns the 'j' from a sibilant into an affricative) it's clearly still having an effect on the pronunciation. I was somewhat objecting to whether the the 'd' itself is being pronounced, but that does get pretty hair-splitting, especially since /d/ is a stop. The transcription /dʒ/ sure makes it look like it's pronounced, but if IPA used a single character to transcribe the affricative, the 'd' would look like it disappeared in French too. But, granted, rather than having no effect (as in English), in French it'd still modulate the pronunciation of the 'j' even in that analysis.

Incidentally, I wonder if there are any languages where /d͡ʒ/ != /dʒ/ or if it's just impossible to produce that sequence.

Polish apparently contrasts /t͡ʂ/ and /tʂ/

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affricate_consonant#Affricates_...

I'm trying to think of other modifier examples. Not a perfect analogy but I don't think you'd say that, in English, the <h> in <sh> is silent.

I wonder about Italian, though. Would it be correct to say the <g> is silent in <gli>?

Seems a much tougher call in Italian. I would say /d͡ʒ/ has a much closer relationship to /dʒ/ than /ʎ/ does to /gli/ for example.

Also /d/ + /ʒ/ does become /d͡ʒ/ in English (and potentially all languages that have /d/ and /ʒ/) so even if you had a single symbol for /d͡ʒ/ that was unrelated to that for /d/, the relationship between /dʒ/ and /d͡ʒ/ is still close.

Most Python programmers? I guess it depends on the circles in which one travels. I've personally never heard it said as "duh-jango" before. I've never pronounced it that way, personally.

In this talk, you can hear a Django dev pronouncing it (quite often): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-WXiqrzAf8

What do you mean "James" doesn't start with "j" sound? James, Justin, Jam, Jerry, Jello, just, joy, jog, jib.... those all sound like the same J to me.

Not sure where you think I say that, but to clarify anyway: the sound at the start of all those words in English is not the same as the sound the French write as "j".

Given all the confusion here, I've added what is hopefully a simpler and more introductory explanation:

Django is pronounced with an initial sound that, in English is often written "j". This might lead one to think of the "D" as silent with the "j" being pronounced the way it is in English.

However, that doesn't explain why the "D" is there in the first place.

A more insightful way to think of it is to remember it's a French spelling. Think of the "j" as being pronounced as in French. Now put a "d" sound in front of it. When the "d" sound and "j" sound merge, you get something called an affricate. This particular affricate is the same sound used in English to pronounce just "j".

So a French "dj" is like an English "j". The "d" isn't silent, though, because the French "j" is not the same as the English "j".

OK, but I'm still going to pronounce it duh-jango. Sorry - it's ingrained.

That's fine by me. I'm just glad that the Django project doesn't advocate this, like the Gnu project does with "gah-noo". I think that if you use a word that already exists it's better to prescribe nothing. I haven't heard anyone on or close to the Django core team rant about people pronouncing it "duh-jango" and I hope it stays that way.

After five paragraphs and still no audio of the correct pronunciation?

So English "j" not French sounding "j".

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