pronunciation: [s] v/s [z] (Phonetics)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Andresillo, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. Andresillo New Member

    Santiago, Chile
    Hello people, long time lurker first time poster...

    I've been looking for websites that explain phonetics situations or rules such us:

    when to pronounce /sh/ instead of /ch/ or /z/ instead of /s/

    I hope you can help me, sorry about my english!

    Thanks in advance! =)
  2. konungursvia Banned

    Canada (English)
    I'm not sure what you mean as the first two phonetic transcriptions may be non-standard. Generally, the /s/ and /z/ are a pair, having a weak and imitative character: they adjust to the sound immediately preceding them. E.g. He breaks /ks/: as /k/ is unvoiced, we use the unvoiced /s/. He brags /gz/ : as /g/ is voiced, we use the voiced /z/. Does this help?
  3. Andresillo New Member

    Santiago, Chile
    so the rule goes like this?

    voiceless sound > /z/ as in "pencils" the final s in pronunced /z/

    voiced sound > /s/ as in "lots" the final s in pronounced /s/

    I hope I got it right! Thanks a lot for your quick reply!! Is there any other rule concerning the /s/ and /z/ sound?
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    First, it was not a formal rule that you were given, but general tendency among words; exceptions can exist.

    Secondly, you changed and reversed what you were told. Konung said:
    That is, an unvoiced consonant tends to be followed by the unvoiced /s/ sound, and a voiced consonant would be followed by the voiced /z/ sound. You turned this around to suggest that "voiceless sounds" (rather than unvoiced consonants) are followed by a /z/, and voiced sounds are followed by an /s/. This is not correct, and it is not what you were told. You also seem to think that the "t" in "lots" is voiced; it is not. A "d" would be voiced, and so the word "loads" is pronounced with a voiced /z/ sound at the end.
  5. Andresillo New Member

    Santiago, Chile
    Oh yeah I'm sorry for my misunderstanding. I just want to know when should I pronounce an "s" as a /s/ sound and when as a /z/ sound. Because my problem is that I pronounce every "s" as a /s/ sound, I don't know when to pronounce the /z/ sound.

    Well, I know that every word that contains a "z" will be pronounced as a /z/ sound, as in: zoo, zip, zack, etc... but I know that there are some words that contains an "s" that should be pronounced as a /z/ I really hope you could understand my doubt, I know I'm not good at explaining things or questions, I tried my best.

    Thanks for your patience! =)
  6. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Usually a single S is pronounced with a /z/ sound, and a double S is pronounced with an /s/ sound. But there of course exceptions.

    Regarding words with /ch/ and /sh/, maybe it depends on the origin of the word, regional style?
  7. konungursvia Banned

    Canada (English)
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Andresillo, congratulations on your first post!

    If your question is about the -(e)s ending added to make plurals etc, then the answer is that the pronunciation is determined by the last sound in the "dictionary form" of the word - the word before any endings are added. If the final sound in the "dictionary form" is unvoiced [meaning that if you put your finger on your throat you don't feel any buzzing], then the ending is . If it's voiced [you feel buzzing], the ending is [z]. The exception to both these rules is that if the final sound in the "dictionary form" of the word is unvoiced 's'/'sh'/'ch' or their voiced equivalents, then you add -es, pronounced like the word "is". This site gives a table showing examples.

    If your question is about the pronunciation of the "dictionary form" of words, then there are certain strong tendencies. For example, s written before an unvoiced consonant would normally be ; s between two vowels would normally be [z]. But the good thing about the "dictionary form" of a word is that ... you can always look up the pronunciation in a dictionary;)

    I look forward to seeing many more posts from you


    EDIT: the linked site isn't perfect, because it suggests that the voiced equivalent of the sound in "crashes" is the sound in "buzzes". Not true. But it's still the best site I've found. Grateful to know of any better ones...
  9. Andresillo New Member

    Santiago, Chile
    Wow thanks for your help Loob it was really useful!!! and thanks everybody for your reply!!

    Happy holidays!!! =)
  10. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    I have to re-open this old thread because I think it's still very confusing for me and many learners. :(
    Pity Loob's link is broken now...Can somebody else provide a COMPREHENSIVE AND ACCURATE WAY for us to judge or check the pronunciations of each "s" added to words?
    It often seems to me that some other rules are overriding the [s/z] rule, which makes the situations quite difficult for me to judge.
    I'm still bothered by many words like:
    Monday's vs. Mondays
    So, do you have any suggestion?
  11. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
  12. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I think in any word that ends with a vowel followed by a single S, the S will be pronounced /z/. All six of those words fit that rule. (Alex's is pronounced as if it were spelled Alexes, like foxes.)
  13. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    I understand what you meant. Just it's not very easy for a foreigner. Many words ORIGINALLY does not have a VOWEL at the end. For example "raise" ends with a /z/, which is not a vowel. We have to learn another rule first: "For words end with a /z/ sound, make the ending become "es" first, and then pronounce /-iz/".
    Then we also have to remember words like "tastes", although ends with "es", should not be pronounced /tiz/.
  14. learntheworld Senior Member

    I'm also learning about the pronunciations of the final "s".
    The link provided by Minnesota Guy in this thread may be helpful to you.
    Here's another related link from BBC.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016

Share This Page