/z/ sound for final s

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hplv1561w, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. hplv1561w Member

    Việt Nam
    I asked several native speakers to pronounce 2 words: besides and in-laws. I heard them all make the /s/ sounds at the end, instead of /z/.
    I also checked with dictionaries online, and I heard them all make the /s/ sounds.
    Here are the links:
    - Oxford Concise: http://www.wordreference.com/definition/besides
    - Oxford OALD: http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/besides
    - Cambridge: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/besides?q=besides
    - Longman: http://www.longmandictionariesusa.com/lsdae/dictionary#besides

    So, what are your opinions?
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I see what you mean, hplv1561w - several of those pronunciations* do, I think, partly unvoice the /z/. I think it's something to do with the fact that the speakers are saying the word in isolation, and probably trying hard to avoid sounding as if they're saying "besides-uh".

    You might be interested in this previous thread on a similar topic: /s/ vs /z/ [differentiating sounds].

    *I couldn't access the last one without registering, but I listened to the others.
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    Comparing my pronunciation of wades and waits, I feel that the voicedness of the final consonant in wades is expressed more in the length of the preceding vowel than in anything that happens after the plosion. However it is difficult to be objective when listening to one's own pronunciation!
  4. hplv1561w Member

    Việt Nam
    Thanks Loob and Se16teddy,
    Unfortunately, I don't know how the rules of unvoiced /z/ work; I cannot produce the unvoiced /z/ sound either.
    As a learner, I have only 2 options: either /s/, or clear /z/.
    May I ask: will I sound weird if I always pronounce the clear /z/ in place of the unvoiced /z/?
  5. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Yes, that is the way to go. Once you've got very comfortable with speaking the language, the unvoiced /z/ will take care of itself. The majority of English native speakers don't even notice the difference they make, so there's no need for you to worry about this at this stage.
  6. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Hullo, se16.

    That's a very good point you've made: the "length" of a vowel sound changes depending on the voicelessness or voicedness of the following consonant sound. Here's the classic (Daniel Jones's) group of four words showing the difference in length of the central vowel, in order from the "longest" to the "shortest":

    bead, beat
    bid, bit

    If we consider the "intrinsic" differences in length of the central phones, we get: bead, beat, bid, bit.

    All the best.

  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    English is a language partially featuring what linguist call final obstruent devoicing. But contrary to languages with complete final obstruent devoicing, phonemic distinction between voiced obstruents and their unvoiced counterparts is maintained. Though opinions vary with respect to the nature of this phonemic distinction, many researchers agree with se16teddy that the distinction is mainly conveyed by relative phoneme length. Voiceless final fricatives tend to be longer at the expense of the syllable nucleus than their voiced counterparts, i.e. when comparing minimal pairs like loose /lu:s/ and lose /lu:z/, the realization is more like loose [lus:] and lose [lu:s]. In this study the authors conclude ... that for wordfinal fricatives the dominant perceptual cues for voicing are those like constriction duration, voiceless interval duration, and V/VC ratio.... Compare the unvoiced interval durations for final fricatives in the plot in 1.2.2 and the vowel lengths in 1.2.3.
  8. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Hullo, berndf.

    The study you mention is extremely interesting. Thank you very much.

    All the best.


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