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S: Spelling and Pronunciation   

In order to work out whether the sound is S or Z, you have first to ask: Remember, by "inflection" we mean any of the following:
  • 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 it's an inflection, go to INFLECTIONAL -S

                   If not, go to LEXICAL -S

    INFLECTIONAL -S

    First, FIND THE SOUND IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE INFLECTION.
    For example: As we can see, there are 3 possible endings:
    1. - after SIBILANTS or s-sounds (voices, watches, dishes, barges, the Jones's, Magnus's, buses)
    2. - after FORTIS CONSONANTS (other than sibilants) - i.e. after , , , (tops, Dick's, rats, laughs, paths)
    3. - after EVERYTHING ELSE (all other consonants and all vowels) - (robs, hugs, spades, trees, leaves, bathes, Joe's, Ann's, things, ends, he's, she's, cars, spiders...)

    We can show this diagramatically:



    You can also find this information in Wells's () Longmans Pronunciation Dictionary under "-s, -es", p.666 (p.615 in older editions)

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    LEXICAL S

    When s is not inflectional, when it is part of the word, and so "lexical", it's not always so easy to work out the pronunciation. - We'll also consider the other sibilant SPELLING FORMS under this section - z, c, ss, ti and so on.

    There are a few rules which will help us, but much of the time you'll need to consult a dictionary. Most of these rules seem to work fairly well:

    But these rules only cover a small number of -s- words. Most of the time, when s occurs in the middle of words, there ae either no rules or they are so complicated that it may simply be better to learn the word. Look it up in a dictionary! Here is the handout on S-spelling for the 6th week; answers will go up after the 6th week.

    See also 'S - Spelling-to-sound' in LPD.

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