/z/ becoming /ʒ or ʃ/

/z/ → /ʒ or ʃ/

The voiced fricative alveolar  /z/ becomes a voiced fricative post-alveolar /ʒ/ when followed by /j/. In theory, this should happen in the same way when the next sound is the voiceless post-alveolar /ʃ/, and this is what most books about English pronunciation say. However, in practice, that sound is devoiced by the proximity of the voiceless /ʃ/ -remember what we said about the devoicing of final consonants-, so it turns into a /ʃ/ as well. The sequence /z/ + /ʃ/, then, is very often pronounced /ʃ  ʃ/, which, unlike the cases we have studied so far, also implies a change in voicing .



/z/ (followed by /j/) becomes /ʒ/

sound_loud_speaker How’s your father doing?

sound_loud_speaker Those young men.

As we saw in the previous article, sometimes the sound /j/ can still be heard, so the resulting sequence would be /ʒ j/.  In other cases, however, the /j/ is not heard because it has been completely assimilated into the new sound.


/z/ (followed by /ʃ/) becomes /ʃ/

sound_loud_speaker Does she know who’s coming?

sound_loud_speaker These shoes need some polishing.

sound_loud_speaker I don’t like those quiz shows.


And here are some examples:

sound_loud_speaker Today, as you’re asking me today, and it could be different next Tuesday, I’m going to say The Beatles, just because I can’t think of anyone better (Martin Freeman, BBC3).

sound_loud_speaker It surprises me how few people seem to do it because you learn about aviation and history (Cambridge Advanced test).

sound_loud_speaker Especially shoes you can’t walk in.  I would say that’s quite a common feature (Sophie Woodward, BBC4).


In this recording you can see the assimilation case where there is a change of both place of articulation and voicing (/z/ becoming /ʃ/):

sound_loud_speaker Every week over 6.600 people vacation aboard the world’s largest cruise ship (advertisement for a cruise ship). |ˈkruːz ʃɪp| → |ˈkruːʃ ʃɪp|


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