Voiced or voiceless "s" in plurals

ewhite

Senior Member
USA/English
I'm teaching a Basic English course for Spanish speakers. It's a volunteer thing, and although I am an experienced teacher, I have never taught ESL before. Some of my students like to know "the rules". Sometimes, I would like to know "the rules" myself.

And here is an example: the difference in sound between the "s" at the end of boots and gloves. I can reach way way back into that speech course I took in college and come up with the terms voiced and voiceless, but I'm still not sure when we voice the s, and when we don't. Any help?

Also, does this voiced s (I guess it's a z, really) exist in Mexican Spanish? Every z-containing word I've tried on my students sounds like an s to me when they say it. Any tips on explaining how to produce it other than feel how your throat vibrates when you get it right?
 
  • Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Well, I'm just a layman, but here's what I reckoned a while back.

    ewhite said:
    Also, does this voiced s (I guess it's a z, really) exist in Mexican Spanish? Every z-containing word I've tried on my students sounds like an s to me when they say it.
    I don't believe the [z] sound exists in any dialect of Spanish. At least, not intervocalically. Maybe it shows up as an allophone of [s] before voiced consonants; I'm not sure.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Thank you, Outsider!

    That is exactly what I was looking for. And my apologies that I did not search more thoroughly in previous posts.
     

    Heba

    Senior Member
    Egypt, Arabic
    Hi
    What I understood is that you want to teach your students when to pronounce the s at the and as an /s/ or a /z/.

    Well, I made some search in the linguistic books I was studying. My linguistics professor offered the next rules for us (non-native speakers of English) to use /s/ or /z/ at the end of words:

    -/s/ comes after words ending in vioceless sounds (sounds in the production of which the vocal cords are held wide apart; sounds in the production of which the vocal cords do not vibrate). Examples are /t/, /k/, /f/
    rats
    books
    gifts

    -/z/ comes after words ending in voiced sounds (sounds in the production of which the vocal cords are close together; sounds in the production of which he vocal cords vibrate). Examples are /d/, /m/ and /g/.

    chairs

    -/iz/ after words ending in sibilants

    classes
    judges


    I do not know if this might be useul for your spanish-speaking students. It worked for me. I hope it helps them
     
    Why not say the words yourself and try and notice parts of your mouth like your tongue, teeth, lips in relation to each other and also the shape of those parts. That was one aspect of our study in English Language classes.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    John Woodrow said:
    Why not say the words yourself and try and notice parts of your mouth like your tongue, teeth, lips in relation to each other and also the shape of those parts. That was one aspect of our study in English Language classes.
    Because what Ewhite wants is to explain to foreigners how they should pronounce words.
     
    ewhite said:
    I'm teaching a Basic English course for Spanish speakers. It's a volunteer thing, and although I am an experienced teacher, I have never taught ESL before. Some of my students like to know "the rules". Sometimes, I would like to know "the rules" myself.

    And here is an example: the difference in sound between the "s" at the end of boots and gloves. I can reach way way back into that speech course I took in college and come up with the terms voiced and voiceless, but I'm still not sure when we voice the s, and when we don't. Any help?

    Also, does this voiced s (I guess it's a z, really) exist in Mexican Spanish? Every z-containing word I've tried on my students sounds like an s to me when they say it. Any tips on explaining how to produce it other than feel how your throat vibrates when you get it right?
    The emboldened and underlined sentence in the question was the part I was referring to.
     

    DaleC

    Senior Member
    ewhite said:
    Also, does this voiced s (I guess it's a z, really) exist in Mexican Spanish?
    It does, according to A. Bryson Gerrard, Colloquial Spanish; but only as a variant of [s] before a voiced consonant; e.g. [laz muxeres], 'las mujeres' (I'm using International Phonetic Alphabet). Or maybe just before some voiced consonants, not before nasals 'm, n, ñ'.

    There are three allomorphs of the English plural marker:
    [əs], spelled 'es', after s, ch (these are voiceless); z, j (these are voiced);
    [s], spelled 's', after the other voiceless consonants;
    [z], spelled 's', after the other voiced consonants and after vowels.
     
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