19 March 2014


When my wife was doing some shopping in BSB yesterday, a sales assistant told her that, as a result of the introduction of shariah law, she might in the future have to wear a cardigan to cover her arms properly. But she pronounced 'cardigan' with /dʒ/ at the start of the final syllable instead of the expected /ɡ/.

This might be regarded as a case of hyper-correction. In Malay, the letter 'g' is always pronounced as /ɡ/. However, in English, 'g' is sometimes /ɡ/ and sometimes /dʒ/, and the speaker got the wrong one.

Actually, a little knowledge of phonics would have resolved this problem. In English, 'g' is always pronounced as /ɡ/ before 'a', 'o' and 'u'. For example, 'gate', 'garden', 'goat', 'gone', 'gut', 'guest', etc. It is only ever pronounced as /dʒ/ before 'e', 'i', and 'y', in words such as 'general', 'gesture', 'ginger', 'gin', 'gyro', and 'gymnasium'.

In fact, before 'e', 'i' and 'y', there are rather a lot of exceptions: 'get', 'gear', 'give', 'girl', 'gynecologist', and many more all have 'g' pronounced as /ɡ/ rather than /dʒ/. But there are no exceptions for its pronunciation as /ɡ/ before 'a', 'o' and 'u'.

Now that phonics is being taught in Brunei schools, one wonders if the error with 'cardigan' might no longer occur when today's primary school students grow up.