As far as I know, margarine is the only word in which a 'g' is pronounced as 'j' though it is not followed by 'e', 'i', or 'y'. What causes the unorthodox pronunciation?
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The OED says:
I doubt if we will find any more definite answer than this.
Perhaps margarine is pronounced thus because it is said to have been invented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. As this gentleman was French, that would fix the soft-g pronunciation.
Margarine is French. In French, letters are not what they sound like in English, and the pronunciation changes depending on if it's at the beginning or middle of the word. For instance: here, it's a strong g as in get if it's at the front, but in the middle if it sounds like the French j.
The French j, no matter where it is, sounds like 'zh'. so the g in margarine sounds like 'zh'. The 'zh' sound is the s sound in 'treasure'. It's used a lot in Russian, you might know it.
Anyway margarine is supposed to be pronounced ma(gh)(zh)a(gh)een, but it's a loanword, and when anglicization gets involved, all sorts of crud happens. The reason the g sounds like a strong English j is really only because English speakers don't use soft sounds in the pronunciation, so the original pronunciation phased out. French is all about the soft nasal consonant stacking. It's the total opposite of English.
protected by RegDwigнt♦ Dec 22 '11 at 14:52
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