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Are there any rules? I do know the 3 sounds of the "S" when it's at the end (for plurals, possesion and third person singular of the Simple Present, plus some exeptions in one-syllable words).
Full Member281
I've surfed the internet but couldn't find all the rules on S sounding. All I get is the -S ending sounding rules, which I already know. Anyone one?

And while we're at it, do you know of an online site with complete lessons on phonetics, with rules on all vowels and consonants?
I don't know of a site like that.

Initial s is pronounced /s/, except in sure and sugar, where it is pronounced /S/*.
Medial s is problematic. There are no hard-and-fast rules -- mostly just lists.
In -ssion or -ssure, the double S is /S/. impression, pressure
In -sion or -sure, the S is /Z/*. vision, treasure
*/S/ is the sound of "sh" in "sheep". /Z/ is the sound of "s" in "measure" or of "zh" in "Zhivago".

Otherwise “ss” has the sound /s/. Exceptions where “ss” = /z/ are “Aussie, Missouri, dessert, dissolve, scissors”, and the first “ss” of “possession”

“sc” before “e”, “i” or “y” acts as if “ss”. (acquiesce) Otherwise, “sc” is /sk/. (ascot, Oscar)

Intervocalic “rs”, “ls”, and “ns”. The “s” is /s/. (horse, else, density, dorsal, conversation, pulse, pensive)
But when followed by final “y” or “ey” the tendency in this situation is for “s” to be /z/. (Mersey, Jersey, pansy, tansy, palsy) Unusual cases with three intervocalic consonants. parsley (/s/), Guernsey (/z/).
Intervocalic “sp”, “st”*, “sk”. The “s” is /s/. (aspen, mustard, asking, prosper, hostile, askew)

*But after a stressed vowel, final “stle” and “sten” have a silent “t”, and “s” is /s/. (castle, rustle, hasten) Stated differently, in such contexts “st” has the sound of “ss”. An exception is “pestle”, which may be pronounced with or without the /t/.

Intervocalic “sm”, “sn”, “sl”, “sb”, “sd”, “sg”. The “s” is /z/. (Osmond, osmium, cosmic, Asner, Maslow, Cosby, wisdom, Disney, frisbie, dismal, paisley) But not in compounds: (busboy, gaslight)

Final “-ism” has /z/.

Intervocalic “s” is typically /z/, but it is /s/ often enough to require memorizing the many exceptions. Note below how the same spellings can be /s/ or /z/, depending on the word or even the use of the word (noun or verb).

With /s/: case, base, chase, vase, erase
With /z/: phase, phrase, laser, quasar
With /s/: obese
With /z/: these, Chinese, Japanese, and all "nationality words" in "-ese"
With /s/: vise, isolate, isobar, and all words with prefix “iso-“.
With /z/: rise, wise, arise, advise, supervise, improvise, all prefix + “vise" words, advertise, prison
With /s/: dose, close (adj), verbose, morose, purpose, monstrosity, porosity
With /z/: chose, hose, close (v), nose, pose, prose, rose, those; lose, whose; position
With /s/ : obtuse, recluse; use, abuse, excuse (nouns)
With /z/: muse, fuse, ruse, amuse, accuse, profuse, confuse; use, abuse, excuse (verbs)
With /z/: raise, praise, braise, raisin, daisy
With /s/: geese, Reese
With /z/: cheese
With /s/: cease, crease, grease*, lease
With /z/: tease, ease, please; easel, teasel, weasel; reason, season, treason
With /s/: mouse, louse, grouse, douse (v), house (n)
With /z/: rouse, arouse, carouse; house (v), lousy; browse, drowse, drowsy
With /s/: moose, goose, loose, noose, caboose
With /z/: choose
*”grease” has /s/ in the northern U.S. and /z/ in the southern U.S.

Prefix + root.

With the prefix “trans” it often makes no difference whether /s/ or /z/ is used.
Speakers vary in their choices.
/s/ or /z/: transpire, transpose, transmit, transact
Latin prefixes “re”, “de”, “pre” followed by a root beginning with “s” (and vowel) normally have /z/.
reserve, deserve, preserve, resort, present, design, resign, resent, resemble, resolve
But with /s/: resource, research; reset, resend, all “re-“ meaning “again”.
But Anglo prefixes “be”, “a” followed by a root beginning with “s” (and vowel) have /s/.
beset, asea, beseech, aside, beside, besiege, asunder

CJ
Veteran Member51,720
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This might be a good thread to sticky.
Full Member187
CalifJim: I take my hat off to you! Thanks for the explanation. The same goes for your other explanation on the topic about the SCHWA. Let me first digest it all to see if I've got furher questions, ok? Thank you again!

By the way, are all those notes in your computer?
Wow! Thank you very much, CalifJim! I know scarcely anything about phonetics, and I mean not only theory, but also speaking or understanding spoken English, but by reading your explanation while listening to the pronunciation of the words cited as examples, I think I've been able to identify the sounds /s/, /S/ and /z/. But I have a question, are there three or four S sounds? EyeSeeYou spoke of three, but then you've also mentioned the /Z/ sound. While I think I've more or less understood the differences among /s/, /S/ and /z/ (which I think could be described for us who don't know much about these subjects as "strong S", "sh" and "soft S", couldn't they?), I'm not so sure about having grasped the /Z/ sound. My source of spoken words is an Oxford dictionary I installed in my computer, and the only of your /Z/ examples whose recording is in the dictionary is "vision". But then, I've listened to another -sion words such as "mansion" and "derision" (the only ones that come into my head right now), and to my ear "mansion" sounds different from "vision", while "derision", well, er, I'd say it sounds more like "vision" but I'm not too sure... It seems to me as if "vision" had a more buzzing sound than "mansion", although it could be owing to the fact that those words are recorded by different persons. Could it be? And also, if it hasn't already been mentioned in Englishforums.com (I haven't found it), could you please copy here those rules about the ending S in plurals and such? I've never heard them.

I say, do average English-speaking people know all this? I mean, after reading these postings I've been saying aloud words in my own language and I've realized that I also pronounce two different S sounds, one stronger at the beginning of words and another softer in between vowels. but I'd never been told this, and I'm sure that 99% of people (the remaining 1% being linguists) would declare we've got only one S sound...
Full Member132
These are four different sounds: /s/ /z/ /S/ /Z/

You heard correctly: derision and vision have the /Z/ sound. mansion and pension have the /S/ sound.
The "s" is intervocalic in the first two of these (between vowels); the "s" is between the consonant "n" and the vowel "i" in mansion and pension.

The /Z/ also is the pronunciation of the "z" in azure (related to Spanish azul, by the way), and of the "zi" in glazier, and of the "s" in treasure, measure, pleasure, and leisure. Try your dictionary for those.

Hardly any native speaker knows such phonetic facts about his own language, no matter which language you consider. Nor should we expect them to have such knowledge. I believe you are being too generous with an estimate of 1%! Phonetics is a very specialized field of study.

I will post the guidelines for final "s" as I have time later, OK?

CJ
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Thanks once again!
CalifJimYou heard correctly: derision and vision have the /Z/ sound. mansion and pension have the /S/ sound.
The "s" is intervocalic in the first two of these (between vowels); the "s" is between the consonant "n" and the vowel "i" in mansion and pension.
All right, so I understand that the rule of "In -sion or -sure, the S is /Z/. vision, treasure" is right for intervocalic "s", while /Z/ must be changed to /S/ when there is a consonant before the "s".
CalifJimThe /Z/ also is the pronunciation of the "z" in azure (related to Spanish azul, by the way), and of the "zi" in glazier, and of the "s" in treasure, measure, pleasure, and leisure. Try your dictionary for those.
Oxford must have something against /Z/. None of those words is recorded in the dictionary; luckily, they have recorded measured and leisured (don't ask me why!) It's difficult for me to distinguish this sound. In fact, I think that till now I would have described it as "sh" (that is, /S/), although after reading all this today and paying more attention, I think it's softer, isn't it?

By the way, have you written the sentente in brackets by chance, or have I given myself away with something I've said? I know it must be obvious I'm a foreigner, but I didn't suppose my mistakes to be too local!
CalifJimHardly any native speaker knows such phonetic facts about his own language, no matter which language you consider. Nor should we expect them to have such knowledge. I believe you are being too generous with an estimate of 1%! Phonetics is a very specialized field of study.
Yes, I was too lazy about using decimals, so that's the smallest percentage I could assign to experts! Emotion: wink
CalifJimI will post the guidelines for final "s" as I have time later, OK?
Thanks, again!
/Z/ must be changed to /S/ when there is a consonant before the "s".
It would be nice if it were that simple. "s" between a consonant and a vowel is more complicated, and I'm afraid there is no reliable rule to follow. The following are worth nothing, however:

Between "n" and a vowel, the /S/ is used, as we've already seen in mansion and pension, but between "r" and a vowel, the "r" is very vowel-like and merely colors the vowel it follows, so is usually treated as a vowel in this context. Therefore the /Z/ is used in version and all its compounds (conversion, inversion, perversion, ...), and in other words with this pattern (like incursion). Note this exception: torsion has /S/.

When between "l" and a vowel, the "s" is variable. Some speakers use /S/, some use /Z/, and this can be inconsistent even within the same speaker. Thus, the -ulsion words (emulsion, convulsion, revulsion, ...) can have /S/ or /Z/. [Personally, I tend towards the /Z/ in these, but I wouldn't be surprised to catch myself using /S/ as well! And I'm sure I use /S/ in propulsion!]

CJ
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