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Sibilants   

Spelling and Pronunciation of s

Here are the English sibilants:
s in 'bus'
z in 'buzz'
in 'hush'
in 'leisure'
in 'church'
in 'judge'
Sibilants are the "s"-like sounds, the whistling fricatives . In Icelandic there's only one - s, which is alveolar and unvoiced. This means that Icelanders are not used to pronouncing postalveolar sibilants, and no voiced sibilants at all.

This is problematic, because the differences between the 4 English sibilants is very distinctive in English, and Icelanders tend to pronounce them all the same.

Problem 1: lack of voicing
In the Language Lab, listen to see whether you make these distinctions:

Sue - zoo -
price - prize -
base - bays -
busing - buzzing -
It's common in 'Icelandic English' to pronounce these pairs of words the same - as homophones. In order not to do this, you should remember Problem 2: articulation
In the Language Lab, listen to hear whether you make these distinctions:
save shave -
gas gash -
presser pressure -
Here it's important to make an articulatory distinction between s and sh. Try not to use the Icelandic method of putting j (as in yellow) after the s, and saying sjopp for shop. THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT when "i" occurs in the spelling: Problem 2: Voicing.
In the Language Lab
listen to hear if you make these distinctions:
racer  razor -
mission  vision -
batch  badge -

How can we tell whether s (in spelling) is s or z in pronunciation?

There are 2 answers to this question, depending on whether the written s is an inflectional ending or not. By inflection, we mean -s or -es or -'s in words like:
  • loves( 3rd. person singular present of the verb:'She loves Selfoss' )
  • cats (plural)
  • John's (possessive)
  • the girls' (plural possessive)
  • 's = is (Mary's leaving)
  • 's = has (Mary's gone)

    If the s in the word is one of these inflections, the answer is easy: just follow this link
    But if it's part of the word (base, house, phase, basis possess) there are fewer clear rules to follow. Follow this link for some pointers


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    If you have any questions mail me at peturk@hi.is.