Fricative voicing in *houses*
halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 9 15:19:25 UTC 2006
Michael Becker of MIT asked the following question, and I replied (on another
list I am on); my reply is below his question. I said I would cross-post the
question here. As usual, if anyone can help Michael, would you please reply
both to him and to this list? Thanks!
University of Pennsylvania
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Mon, 8 May 2006 09:21:29 -0400
> From: Michael Becker <michael at linguist.umass.edu>
> Subject: fricatives
> Do you know anything about the socio distribution of the plural of "house",
> i.e who says "hawsiz" and who says "hawziz" (vowel quality doesn't matter to
> me)? Any other s-final nouns that do this? And has anybody looked at these
> cases systematically?
> Michael Becker
> Department of Linguistics
> UMass, Amherst
Dear Michael, dear list,
I haven't looked at this systematically, so I don't know literature about anyone
who might have; so (the first part of) what follows is strictly anecdotal, but
maybe it will point you in a good direction when you're looking for literature.
It has been my impression since arriving here in the States (nearly three years
ago) that "hausiz" ~ "hauziz" is one of the components of the difference
between GenAmE (if that exists) and BrE. Maybe this is a better way around to
put it: I am not aware of any speaker of Standard Southern BrE (my dialect) who
says "hausiz" with a /s/. There are clearly Americans who say it with a /z/, as
I do, but I couldn't say where the difference lay.
Introspecting about it just now, it seems to me that in my own idiolect *house*
> /hauzIz/ may in fact be a lexical exception. For me, the plural of *mouse*
'computer peripheral' is *mouses* /mausIz/. Clearly, other nouns ending in
/-Vs/ in the singular don't voice the /s/ in the plural: *face* > /feisIz/ not
*/feiziz/, etc. Unfortunately, and equally obviously, the two non-20th-C
English words on the exact template of *house* (*louse* and *mouse* 'quadruped
mammal; vermin*, unless I am missing any) are removed from the equation by
having irregular plurals.
Another direction you might look in is the more general voicing (or not) of /s/
or /z/ intervocalically. Or maybe I am thinking of another possible lexical
exception: President Bush (at least; and if you can take his English as an
authority) says *citizen* /sItIs at n/ (where /@/ = schwa). I had never heard that
fricative pronounced voiceless before I came to the States. The *OED* lists
only /sItIz at n/ as a pronunciation, but notes that it is not certain where the
fricative in the word came from etymologically, since the history of the
English word seems to be
Latin reconstructed (non-attested) *civita:ta:num
> Old French citeain, citehain, citeen, citein, citien, citain > citeyen,
> Anglo-French citesein, citezein, sithezein
> Middle Eng citesein, etc.
Merriam-Webster notes the pronunciation of the word as
/sIt at z@n/ also /-s at n/
so presumably Pres. Bush isn't the only one to use that pronunciation; which is
useful, since that might mean it's a more general phenomenon that's actually
The *OED* notes the suggestion that the /z/ in *citizen* may have arisen by
analogy with the one in *denizen*, where it *is* etymological.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
More information about the Ads-l