Fricative voicing in *houses*

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 9 16:30:52 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!
>Damien Hall
>University of Pennsylvania

Nothing on the isogloss for hou[s]es vs. hou[z]es--I'm pretty
restricted to the latter group, except of course for the former
pronounciation for "house's".  But something that always struck me
was the speakers who distinguish "hou[s]ewife" from "hou[z]ewives",
as a kind of assimilation at a distance.  The latter innovation has
always struck me as a phonological analogue of its morphological
counterpart in "sleptwalked".


>  > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>  Date: Mon, 8 May 2006 09:21:29 -0400
>  > From: Michael Becker <michael at>
>>  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
>My reply:
>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
>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
>worth investigating!
>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 -

The American Dialect Society -

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