All dictionaries I have ever checked give
the pronunciation of the English plural, possessive, and third-person
singular "-s" suffixes as /z/ after vowels and voiced consonants.
However, I have noticed in my own speech and in the speech of some
other Americans that it is sometimes pronounced [s] instead.|
One person who regularly pronounces these suffixes as [s] after vowels and voiced consonants is the current President Bush. A brief excerpt from one of his recent speeches appears below in mp3 format:
Click here for excerptTo my ear, his pronunciation of the last consonant of "responsibilities" is identical to that of the last consonant of "sacrifice" and "progress," though dictionaries would give /z/ as the pronunciation for the first and /s/ for the second and third.
His rival Al Gore seems to voice such suffixes:
Click here for excerptAcross the pond, Tony Blair voices his suffixes even more distinctly:
Click here for excerptIn a recent test of a fellow native Californian's pronunciation, I found that she also pronounced these suffixes as [s]. However, when the suffix was preceded by a vowel the vowel was lengthened, suggesting that on the phonological level, at least, the consonant is voiced:
trays [trei:s] (phonemically /trez/?)My sample of only three informants, including myself, who devoice these suffixes is too small to draw any conclusions, though I wonder whether the fact that all three are from the American Southwest could indicate an influence from Spanish.
(September 13, 2003)