hard words on TV! Part deux

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat May 12 02:29:51 UTC 2007

At 6:50 PM -0400 5/11/07, James Harbeck wrote:
>>?? i don't think i've heard it with final [z].  and both AHD4 and
>>NOAD2 have it with final [s].  do you mean the *medial* fricative?
>>that i've heard pronounced [s] rather than [z].
>Very interesting again! In Canada, in my experience, the final s is
>normally [z] except in a few circles (those with stronger American
>influences, come to think of it), and that was my experience in
>Boston when I lived there too. Not that people sit around talking
>about Jesus that much around there, but the voiceless variant is
>salient for me, so if it had been standard I probably would have
>But clearly I am just going to have to stop generalizing from
>Canadian here. Or perhaps it's from northern dialects -- my parents
>and relatives are all from western New York, and it's certainly not
>universally [s] among them.
>You can hear "Jesus Christ!" shouted in many movies. I have the sense
>-- unreliable though it may be -- that the final s is normally voiced
>in this. It's something that I'm now going to listen for and make
>note of. I know Steve Martin says it that way on his record "A Wild
>and Crazy Guy". I'll see if I can dig up some other sound clips...
>James Harbeck.
This born and bred northern is not aware of having heard stand-alone
"Jesus" pronounced with a final voiced fricative anywhere, including
NYC, Long Island, Rochester, Boston, or New Haven, in all of which
I've lived at different times.  I have heard "Jesu's", as in "in ____
name", pronounced that way, but I assume that's not what's at issue

But I think you're right about the "Jesus Christ" context making
voicing of that -s more likely, which is pretty odd when you think
about it.  Voicing dissimilation?  Naaah. More likely the following
"Christ" leads to partial suppression of the schwa in Jesus' (or
Jesu's) second syllable, which makes it easier to carry over the
voicing from the first [s] to the second one.  Of course I'm neither
a Christian nor a phonetician, so YMMV--to use the modern


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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