I live in the Midwest and it is very common to hear people say "what ja doing?" instead of saying "what ya doing?" or "what are you doing?".

Is this okay? Is using the 'j' sound instead of the 'y' sound okay as long as the other person gets the gist of what you are asking? I wonder if the 'j' sound will confuse people who use English as a second language.

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    I doubt if they really say J, phonetically /dʒ/. More likely it's the CH sound, phonetically /tʃ/. The reason I say that is because that's the way I say it myself (I'm from the Midwest), and because following the final /t/ of What, it's normal for the next sound to be voiceless like Whatcha instead of voiced like Whatja. After voiced consonants you'd get a /dʒ/, but /tʃ/ is the normal pronunciation here; similar remarks apply to gotcha and right back atcha. This kind of thing happens whenever an /i/ 'EE' or /y/ follows a consonant; it's called Palatalization, if you're curious. – John Lawler Sep 18 '18 at 15:32
  • If it's very common, it's okay. – Azor Ahai Sep 18 '18 at 16:10
  • @JohnLawler: I agree with what you write, but I would just like to point out that /dʒ/ is possible after /t/. For example "Whatja think?", where "ja" replaces the (voiced) "do you?" – TonyK Sep 18 '18 at 19:05
  • @TonyK If you want to palatalize something unvoiced, it is written informally as '-tch-': "What are you doing?"-> "Whatcha doin?". If voiced, '-dj-' "What did you do?" -> "Whatja do?". Using a 't' looks really wrong in 'Whatya think?'. Of course there are no rules here because this is not standard English. But 'tj' really doesn't evoke a voiced palatalized sound for me. – Mitch Sep 18 '18 at 19:35
  • @Mitch: I would write it "What d'ya think?" But for me (a Brit), it sounds like /wɒʔdʒə'θɪŋk/, so the 'j' is perhaps more accurate. – TonyK Sep 18 '18 at 19:47

The phrase is found in six literary works by searching "what ja doing" in google books. One of those follows:

Christmas stories from Louisiana - Page 174 google books

"What ja doing?" Mamaw wanted to know. "I was moving this to the table and it slipped from my hand. Daddy's potato salad went all over the place.

As @johnlawler commented about whatja and whatcha: it's called palatalization. And his back atcha is common in AmE too. What ja think? I would and do use it too.

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