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Is the country México or Méjico? addresses the spelling of the noun México. However, it does not address the pronunciation. I have heard México pronounced both as if it was written with a "x" (as English speakers pronounce it) and as if it were written with a "j". To make things more complicated, some old Spanish words written with an "x" were in fact pronounced as if they were written with a "j" (which is what was addressed by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language that changed the spelling of words in 1754, as far as I understand).

So, my question is:

  1. In which countries people more predominantly pronounce México with the "x" sound and which ones pronounce it with a "j" sound, regardless of the spelling?
  2. How was the noun México pronounced historically? Was it originally pronounced with the "j" sound and then evolving, in some countries, to be pronounced with an "x" sound because of its spelling?
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    No Spanish-speaking country pronounces México/Méjico as /'meksiko/ – user0721090601 Jun 17 '18 at 21:53
  • @user, are you maybe thinking about some other uses of the letter X, that don't get pronounced the same as the letter J? For example, the woman's name Xóchitl, or the park, Xochimilco? – aparente001 Jun 19 '18 at 3:13
  • Ah, thinking about this some more, I have a different conjecture. Perhaps someone spoke to you with the affectation of "I can speak English, let me show off my knowledge, and try to pronounce Mexico as it's pronounced in English" -- but their vowels still came out pure, as in Spanish; and you didn't realize their pronunciation was special for your benefit. – aparente001 Jun 24 '18 at 5:27
  • One possibility is that you thought you were hearing them pronounce Mexico, the country or the city. But in fact they were talking about the Mexicas, better known as the Aztecs. – aris May 8 '19 at 4:32
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Let's take a look at the etymology (forms with asterisks are hypothetical words to show the pronunciation of j at that time):

  • Nahuatl Mēxihco [meːˈʃiʔko]
  • Old Spanish México [ˈmeʃiko] | *Méjico [ˈmeʒiko]
  • 15C Spanish México [ˈmeʃiko] | *Méjico [ˈmeʃiko]
  • 16C Spanish México [ˈmexiko] | Méjico [ˈmexiko]

In modern Spanish the pronunciation of the 'x' will be slightly different in certain dialects of Spanish, but this is not specific to the word México, it is just a dialectal/contextual realisation of the phoneme /x/:

  • [ˈmexiko] Most Spanish dialects
  • [ˈmeçiko] Chile, Peruvian coast
  • [ˈmehiko] southern Mexico, the Caribbean, much of Central America, parts of South America, the Canary Islands, western Andalusia
  • [ˈmefiko] Amazonic Spanish

In no dialect of modern Spanish are México and Méjico pronounced differently.

In no dialect of Spanish is the 'x' in México pronounced like [ks].

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  • I probably simplified too much by limiting myself to two sounds, there is a bigger variety of sounds. – user Jun 18 '18 at 1:33
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    @user Those are just different ways to pronounce the phoneme. There are still others, like ['meχiko] which one might here from some Peninsular speakers – user0721090601 Jun 18 '18 at 14:46
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    But ultimately, there is consistency in the sense that however someone pronounces the letter J (and GE/GI) will strictly dictate how they pronounce the X/J in Mexico – user0721090601 Jun 18 '18 at 14:47
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  1. Usually English speakers say Mexico with the "x" sound while native Spanish speakers would say it with a "j" sound.
  2. The country Mexico was originally spelled "Méjico" but they changed it (don't know the reason sorry) to "México" but still became stuck with the "j" sound. Hope this helps :)
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    Welcome to the Spanish Language forum! Do you have any source for your second claim? As far as I know, México has always been spelled this way. The use of x for the phoneme x is actually deprecated in Spanish, but remains in México as an archaism. – Gorpik Jul 20 '18 at 8:55

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