I would like to know the basic rule for the formation of the plural nouns.
That is, when I have to pronounce the ending /s/ like /z/, /s/ or /iz/.
Posted 02 August 2002
The regular plural endings of nouns have three distinct pronunciations,
as you have noted. They can be classified as followed:
1. The -s plural ending is pronounced like /z/ after voiced
sounds. This means that if the ending of the noun is voiced - if you can
feel your larynx vibrate at the end of the noun you pronounce - it has
the /z/ sound. Some examples are: dads, moms, boys, girls, rooms, dogs,
schools, days, years, lives.
2. The -s plural ending is pronounced like /s/ after voiceless
sounds. This means that if the ending of the noun is not voiced -
if you cannot feel your larynx vibrate at the end of the noun -
it has the /s/ sound. Some examples are: books, desks, cats, cups,
groups, students, tops, backs.
3. The -s plural ending is pronounced with an additional syllable
- similar to "iz" - after several different noun endings, both
voiced and voiceless:
after "s" sounds: classes, glasses, kisses,
horses, places, sentences, faces, offices
after "z" sounds: sizes, exercises, roses, noises,
after "sh" sounds: dishes, bushes, wishes
after "ch" sounds: matches, sandwiches, watches
With each of these differentiated
groups, the pronunciation of the plurals makes sense:
In the first, as you pronounce that last voiced sound, it is natural
to continue with another voiced sound, the /z/ sound. In the second,
as you pronounce that last voiceless sound, it is natural to continue
with another voiceless sound, the /s/ sound. And in the last, it is
almost impossible to pronounce the final -s, -z, -sh, -ch, or -ge/-dge
sounds without adding that extra syllable.
This entry is based on information in Betty S. Azar, Basic English
Grammar, Second Edition (Prentice Hall Regents, 1995).