s vs z

A notoriously tough aspect for new cuers is assigning the correct handshape for /s/ and /z/. This decision occurs frequently in English because it affects plurals (e.g., cats, dogs, horses), posessives (e.g., Matt’s, Pam’s, and Rich’s), as well as inflections for subject-verb agreement (hits, spills, washes). 

Rule

1) If the root word ends in a voiceless sound (e.g., rat), the -s ending is pronounced (cued) /s/. Exceptions to this will be noted below for voiceless sounds that need a vowel before adding the plural marker.

Final Phoneme of Root Word Examples
/ppp/ chips, sleeps, cramps, drops, thanks
/kkk/ bakes, works, drinks, bunks, books
/ttt/ its, rights, fists, gnats, hints
/fff/ laughs, paragraphs, goofs, whiffs, giraffes
/θthth/ strengths, myths

2) If the root word ends in a voiced sound (e.g., phone), the -s ending is pronounced (cued) /z/. This inclueds root words that end with vowels as all vowels are voiced. Exceptions to this will be noted below for voiced sounds that need a vowel before adding the plural marker.

Final Phoneme of Root Word Examples
/ddd/ yards, worlds, leads
/ðt͟htH/ paths, soothes
/vvv/ serves, saves, loves, drives, thieves
/rrr/ scars, stairs, fears, cigars
/bbb/ herbs, knobs
/nnn/ clowns, mines, brains, lines, strains, acorns
/mmm/ Mom’s, terms, crumbs, plums, items
/lll/ balls, sells, files, wheels, patrols, towels
/ggg/ wigs, legs, mugs, eggs
/ŋngng/ meetings, fillings
[vowels] pies, sees, chews, plays, knows, cowboys, canoes, annoys

3) Exceptions to the rules above are found in words that end in a type of sound called sibilants. It isn’t necessary to know the term for these sounds, but it is worth knowing which phonemes are included: /ʃshsh/ (wish), /ʧchch/ (church), /sss/ (bus), /zzz/ (buzz), /ʒzhzh/ (garage), and /ʤjj/ (judge). These words take a vowel, /ɪĭi/ or /əəə/, before /zzz/**. Selection of /ɪĭi/ or /əəə/ in the examples below is not meant to suggest a preference for either vowel for that particular word. Note that, inspite of spelling, these final syllables do not take the vowel /ɛěeh/. 

Final Phoneme of Root Word Examples
/ʒzhzh/ garages, massages
/zzz/ abuses
/sss/ faces, horses, nieces, bosses, sentences, services, slices
/ʃshsh/ bushes, dishes, washes
/ʧchch/ churches, teaches, glitches, inches
/ʤjj/ lodges, languages, hinges, gauges, edges

** You do not need to commit to either /ɪĭi/ or /əəə/ for these plural endings. In reality, you are likely to alternate between the vowels depending on whether the word is cued alone or in a sentence and whether the word is stressed or not. For example, one may say the single word bushes as /bbbʊo͝oooʃshshɪĭizzz/, but they same cuer may pronounce the word with a schwa when it occurs in a sentence, The bushes need a good watering.

Instruction

When learning to discriminate between two building blocks, it can be useful for instructors to choose words that differ only in that one way. So when teaching students to discriminate /s/ and /z/, examples like rice and rise may be more effective than cats and dogs. In this way, students can overcome interference from spelling (i.e., recognize that the letter “s” is not always cued as /s/) if switching a /z/ to an /s/ makes a new word. So when students consider how to cue eyes, they may realize that cueing the word with a final /s/ actually makes the word ice.

fleece fleas
lice lies
gross grows
race rays
dice dies
muscle muzzle
pace pays
source sores
face phase
loose lose
noose news
sauce saws
juice Jews

New cuers who use speech to figure out how to cue must be reminded not to whisper when trying to identify /s/ and /z/. Whispering is the turning off of the vocal fold vibration. By whispering, one changes instances of /z/ to /s/!

Teaching Deaf and Foreign Speakers

Teaching people to discriminate /s/ and /z/ presumes that they already have the building blocks of the English language in their minds. For those students, they must learn to re-examine what they take for granted. Some students, including some deaf students and English Language Learners, may not already have these building blocks established in their minds. For them, they will be learning the cues and the patterns of English at the same time. This process more resembles learning English as a foreign language than traditional CS classes taught to hearing English speakers.

Acquiring English Morphology

For deaf children who acquire English through cueing, this rules is obviously not taught. rather, the rules of English morphology (along with its variations) are acquired passively. 

Links

  • /s/ vs. /z/ Quiz The Quizzes and Games section of DailyCues.com has an interactive quiz. Ten words are randomly chosen from a bank of words. You must decide which handshape would be used for the phoneme represented by the letter “s” (e.g., music). 
  • On Being: Take the “Wug” Test Linguist Jean Berko Gleason famously uncovered how people generalize endings in her “wug” test. This blog entry with reflections from readers sheds light on this phenomenon that cuers share in.

 

 

cats

  • /kæˈts/
  • /kaˈts/
  • /kăˈts/
  • 2t5s3s

dogs

  • /dɔˈgz/
  • /dawˈgz/
  • /dôˈgz/
  • 1c7s2s

horses

  • /hoˈrsɪz/
  • /hohˈrsiz/
  • /hōˈrsĭz/
  • 3sf3s3t2s

Matt’s

  • /mæˈts/
  • /maˈts/
  • /măˈts/
  • 5t5s3s

Pam’s

  • /pæˈmz/
  • /paˈmz/
  • /păˈmz/
  • 1t5s2s

Rich’s

  • /rɪˈʧɪz/
  • /riˈchiz/
  • /rĭˈchĭz/
  • 3t8t2s

hits

  • /hɪˈts/
  • /hiˈts/
  • /hĭˈts/
  • 3t5s3s

spills

  • /spɪˈlz/
  • /spiˈlz/
  • /spĭˈlz/
  • 3s1t6s2s

washes

  • /wɔˈʃɪz/
  • /wawˈshiz/
  • /wôˈshĭz/
  • 6c6t2s

rat

  • /ræˈt/
  • /raˈt/
  • /răˈt/
  • 3t5s

rats

  • /ræˈts/
  • /raˈts/
  • /răˈts/
  • 3t5s3s

chips

  • /ʧɪˈps/
  • /chiˈps/
  • /chĭˈps/
  • 8t1s3s

sleeps

  • /sliˈps/
  • /sleeˈps/
  • /slēˈps/
  • 3s6m1s3s

cramps

  • /kræˈmps/
  • /kraˈmps/
  • /krăˈmps/
  • 2s3t5s1s3s

drops

  • /drɑˈps/
  • /drahˈps/
  • /dräˈps/
  • 1s3sf1s3s

thanks

  • /θæˈŋks/
  • /thaˈngks/
  • /thăˈngks/
  • 7t8s2s3s

bakes

  • /beɪˈks/
  • /bayˈks/
  • /bāˈks/
  • 4c5t2s3s

works

  • /wɚˈks/
  • /wurˈks/
  • /wûrˈks/
  • 6m2s3s

drinks

  • /drɪˈŋks/
  • /driˈngks/
  • /drĭˈngks/
  • 1s3t8s2s3s

bunks

  • /bʌˈŋks/
  • /buhˈngks/
  • /bŭˈngks/
  • 4sd8s2s3s

books

  • /bʊˈks/
  • /booˈks/
  • /bo͝oˈks/
  • 4t2s3s

its

  • /ɪts/
  • /its/
  • /ĭts/
  • 5t5s3s

rights

  • /rɑɪˈts/
  • /rieˈts/
  • /rīˈts/
  • 3s5t5s3s

fists

  • /fɪˈsts/
  • /fiˈsts/
  • /fĭˈsts/
  • 5t3s5s3s

gnats

  • /næˈts/
  • /naˈts/
  • /năˈts/
  • 4t5s3s

hints

  • /hɪˈnts/
  • /hiˈnts/
  • /hĭˈnts/
  • 3t4s5s3s

laughs

  • /læˈfs/
  • /laˈfs/
  • /lăˈfs/
  • 6t5s3s

paragraphs

  • /pɛˈrəgræˌfs/
  • /pehˈrəgraˌfs/
  • /pěˈrəgrăˌfs/
  • 1c3sd7s3t5s3s

goofs

  • /guˈfs/
  • /gueˈfs/
  • /go͞oˈfs/
  • 7c5s3s

whiffs

  • /wɪˈfs/
  • /wiˈfs/
  • /wĭˈfs/
  • 6t5s3s

giraffes

  • /ʤɚæˈfs/
  • /juraˈfs/
  • /jûrăˈfs/
  • 7m5t5s3s

strengths

  • /strɛˈŋθs/
  • /strehˈngths/
  • /strěˈngths/
  • 3s5s3c8s7s3s

myths

  • /mɪˈθs/
  • /miˈths/
  • /mĭˈths/
  • 5t7s3s

phone

  • /foʊˈn/
  • /fohˈn/
  • /fōˈn/
  • 5sf4s

phones

  • /foʊˈnz/
  • /fohˈnz/
  • /fōˈnz/
  • 5sf4s2s

yards

  • /jɑˈrdz/
  • /yahˈrdz/
  • /yäˈrdz/
  • 8sf3s1s2s

worlds

  • /wɚˈldz/
  • /wurˈldz/
  • /wûrˈldz/
  • 6m6s1s2s

leads

  • /liˈdz/
  • /leeˈdz/
  • /lēˈdz/
  • 6m1s2s

paths

  • /pæˈðz/
  • /paˈtHz/
  • /păˈt͟hz/
  • 1t2s*2s

soothes

  • /suˈðz/
  • /sueˈtHz/
  • /so͞oˈt͟hz/
  • 3c2s*2s

serves

  • /sɚˈvz/
  • /surˈvz/
  • /sûrˈvz/
  • 3m2s*2s

saves

  • /seɪˈvz/
  • /sayˈvz/
  • /sāˈvz/
  • 3c5t2s*2s

loves

  • /lʌˈvz/
  • /luhˈvz/
  • /lŭˈvz/
  • 6sd2s*2s

drives

  • /drɑɪˈvz/
  • /drieˈvz/
  • /drīˈvz/
  • 1s3s5t2s*2s

thieves

  • /θiˈvz/
  • /theeˈvz/
  • /thēˈvz/
  • 7m2s*2s

scars

  • /skɑˈrz/
  • /skahˈrz/
  • /skäˈrz/
  • 3s2sf3s2s

stairs

  • /stɛˈrz/
  • /stehˈrz/
  • /stěˈrz/
  • 3s5c3s2s

fears

  • /fɪˈrz/
  • /fiˈrz/
  • /fĭˈrz/
  • 5t3s2s

cigars

  • /sɪgɑˈrz/
  • /sigahˈrz/
  • /sĭgäˈrz/
  • 3t7sf3s2s

herbs

  • /ɚˈbz/
  • /urˈbz/
  • /ûrˈbz/
  • 5m4s2s

knobs

  • /nɑˈbz/
  • /nahˈbz/
  • /näˈbz/
  • 4sf4s2s

clowns

  • /klɑʊˈnz/
  • /klowˈnz/
  • /klowˈnz/
  • 2s6s5t4s2s

mines

  • /mɑɪˈnz/
  • /mieˈnz/
  • /mīˈnz/
  • 5s5t4s2s

brains

  • /breɪˈnz/
  • /brayˈnz/
  • /brāˈnz/
  • 4s3c5t4s2s

lines

  • /lɑɪˈnz/
  • /lieˈnz/
  • /līˈnz/
  • 6s5t4s2s

strains

  • /streɪˈnz/
  • /strayˈnz/
  • /strāˈnz/
  • 3s5s3c5t4s2s

acorns

  • /eɪˈkornz/
  • /ayˈkohrnz/
  • /āˈkōrnz/
  • 5c5t2sf3s4s2s

mom’s

  • /mɑˈmz/
  • /mahˈmz/
  • /mäˈmz/
  • 5sf5s2s

terms

  • /tɚˈmz/
  • /turˈmz/
  • /tûrˈmz/
  • 5m5s2s

crumbs

  • /krʌˈmz/
  • /kruhˈmz/
  • /krŭˈmz/
  • 2s3sd5s2s

plums

  • /plʌˈmz/
  • /pluhˈmz/
  • /plŭˈmz/
  • 1s6sd5s2s

items

  • /ɑɪˈtəmz/
  • /ieˈtəmz/
  • /īˈtəmz/
  • 5s5t5sd5s2s

balls

  • /bɔˈlz/
  • /bawˈlz/
  • /bôˈlz/
  • 4c6s2s

sells

  • /sɛˈlz/
  • /sehˈlz/
  • /sěˈlz/
  • 3c6s2s

files

  • /fɑɪˈlz/
  • /fieˈlz/
  • /fīˈlz/
  • 5s5t6s2s

wheels

  • /wiˈlz/
  • /weeˈlz/
  • /wēˈlz/
  • 6m6s2s

patrols

  • /pətroʊˈlz/
  • /pətrohˈlz/
  • /pətrōˈlz/
  • 1sd5s3sf6s2s

towels

  • /tɑʊˈlz/
  • /towˈlz/
  • /towˈlz/
  • 5s5t6s2s

wigs

  • /wɪˈgz/
  • /wiˈgz/
  • /wĭˈgz/
  • 6t7s2s

legs

  • /lɛˈgz/
  • /lehˈgz/
  • /lěˈgz/
  • 6c7s2s

mugs

  • /mʌˈgz/
  • /muhˈgz/
  • /mŭˈgz/
  • 5sd7s2s

eggs

  • /ɛˈgz/
  • /ehˈgz/
  • /ěˈgz/
  • 5c7s2s

meetings

  • /miˈtɪŋz/
  • /meeˈtingz/
  • /mēˈtĭngz/
  • 5m5t8s2s

fillings

  • /fɪˈlɪŋz/
  • /fiˈlingz/
  • /fĭˈlĭngz/
  • 5t6t8s2s

pies

  • /pɑɪˈz/
  • /pieˈz/
  • /pīˈz/
  • 1s5t2s

sees

  • /siˈz/
  • /seeˈz/
  • /sēˈz/
  • 3m2s

chews

  • /ʧuˈz/
  • /chueˈz/
  • /cho͞oˈz/
  • 8c2s

plays

  • /pleɪˈz/
  • /playˈz/
  • /plāˈz/
  • 1s6c5t2s

knows

  • /noʊˈz/
  • /nohˈz/
  • /nōˈz/
  • 4sf2s

cowboys

  • /kɑʊˈbɔɪˌz/
  • /kowˈboyˌz/
  • /kowˈboiˌz/
  • 2s5t4c5t2s

canoes

  • /kənuˈz/
  • /kənueˈz/
  • /kəno͞oˈz/
  • 2sd4c2s

annoys

  • /ənɔɪˈz/
  • /ənoyˈz/
  • /ənoiˈz/
  • 5sd4c5t2s

garages

  • /gɚɑˈʒɪz/
  • /gurahˈzhiz/
  • /gûräˈzhĭz/
  • 7m5sf1t2s

massages

  • /məsɑˈʒɪz/
  • /məsahˈzhiz/
  • /məsäˈzhĭz/
  • 5sd3sf1t2s

abuses

  • /əbjuˈzɪz/
  • /əbyueˈziz/
  • /əbyo͞oˈzĭz/
  • 5sd4s8c2t2s

faces

  • /feɪˈsəz/
  • /fayˈsəz/
  • /fāˈsəz/
  • 5c5t3sd2s

horses

  • /hɔˈrsɪz/
  • /hawˈrsiz/
  • /hôˈrsĭz/
  • 3c3s3t2s

nieces

  • /niˈsɪz/
  • /neeˈsiz/
  • /nēˈsĭz/
  • 4m3t2s

bosses

  • /bɔˈsɪz/
  • /bawˈsiz/
  • /bôˈsĭz/
  • 4c3t2s

sentences

  • /sɛˈntənsəz/
  • /sehˈntənsəz/
  • /sěˈntənsəz/
  • 3c4s5sd4s3sd2s

services

  • /sɚˈvəsɪz/
  • /surˈvəsiz/
  • /sûrˈvəsĭz/
  • 3m2sd3t2s

slices

  • /slɑɪˈsɪz/
  • /slieˈsiz/
  • /slīˈsĭz/
  • 3s6s5t3t2s

bushes

  • /bʊˈʃɪz/
  • /booˈshiz/
  • /bo͝oˈshĭz/
  • 4t6t2s

dishes

  • /dɪˈʃəz/
  • /diˈshəz/
  • /dĭˈshəz/
  • 1t6sd2s

washes

  • /wɑˈʃəz/
  • /wahˈshəz/
  • /wäˈshəz/
  • 6sf6sd2s

churches

  • /ʧɚˈʧəz/
  • /churˈchəz/
  • /chûrˈchəz/
  • 8m8sd2s

teaches

  • /tiˈʧɪz/
  • /teeˈchiz/
  • /tēˈchĭz/
  • 5m8t2s

glitches

  • /glɪˈʧəz/
  • /gliˈchəz/
  • /glĭˈchəz/
  • 7s6t8sd2s

inches

  • /ɪˈnʧəz/
  • /iˈnchəz/
  • /ĭˈnchəz/
  • 5t4s8sd2s

lodges

  • /lɑˈʤɪz/
  • /lahˈjiz/
  • /läˈjĭz/
  • 6sf7t2s

languages

  • /læˈŋgwəʤəz/
  • /laˈnggwəjəz/
  • /lăˈnggwəjəz/
  • 6t8s7s6sd7sd2s

hinges

  • /hɪˈnʤəz/
  • /hiˈnjəz/
  • /hĭˈnjəz/
  • 3t4s7sd2s

gauges

  • /geɪˈʤɪz/
  • /gayˈjiz/
  • /gāˈjĭz/
  • 7c5t7t2s

edges

  • /ɛˈʤɪz/
  • /ehˈjiz/
  • /ěˈjĭz/
  • 5c7t2s

bushes

  • /bʊˈʃɪz/
  • /booˈshiz/
  • /bo͝oˈshĭz/
  • 4t6t2s

bushes

  • /bʊˈʃəz/
  • /booˈshəz/
  • /bo͝oˈshəz/
  • 4t6sd2s

rice

  • /rɑɪˈs/
  • /rieˈs/
  • /rīˈs/
  • 3s5t3s

rise

  • /rɑɪˈz/
  • /rieˈz/
  • /rīˈz/
  • 3s5t2s

cats

  • /kæˈts/
  • /kaˈts/
  • /kăˈts/
  • 2t5s3s

dogs

  • /dɔˈgz/
  • /dawˈgz/
  • /dôˈgz/
  • 1c7s2s

eyes

  • /ɑɪˈz/
  • /ieˈz/
  • /īˈz/
  • 5s5t2s

ice

  • /ɑɪˈs/
  • /ieˈs/
  • /īˈs/
  • 5s5t3s

fleece

  • /fliˈs/
  • /fleeˈs/
  • /flēˈs/
  • 5s6m3s

fleas

  • /fliˈz/
  • /fleeˈz/
  • /flēˈz/
  • 5s6m2s

lice

  • /lɑɪˈs/
  • /lieˈs/
  • /līˈs/
  • 6s5t3s

lies

  • /lɑɪˈz/
  • /lieˈz/
  • /līˈz/
  • 6s5t2s

gross

  • /groʊˈs/
  • /grohˈs/
  • /grōˈs/
  • 7s3sf3s

grows

  • /groʊˈz/
  • /grohˈz/
  • /grōˈz/
  • 7s3sf2s

race

  • /reɪˈs/
  • /rayˈs/
  • /rāˈs/
  • 3c5t3s

rays

  • /reɪˈz/
  • /rayˈz/
  • /rāˈz/
  • 3c5t2s

dice

  • /dɑɪˈs/
  • /dieˈs/
  • /dīˈs/
  • 1s5t3s

dies

  • /dɑɪˈz/
  • /dieˈz/
  • /dīˈz/
  • 1s5t2s

muscle

  • /mʌˈsəl/
  • /muhˈsəl/
  • /mŭˈsəl/
  • 5sd3sd6s

muzzle

  • /mʌˈzəl/
  • /muhˈzəl/
  • /mŭˈzəl/
  • 5sd2sd6s

pace

  • /peɪˈs/
  • /payˈs/
  • /pāˈs/
  • 1c5t3s

pays

  • /peɪˈz/
  • /payˈz/
  • /pāˈz/
  • 1c5t2s

source

  • /sɔˈrs/
  • /sawˈrs/
  • /sôˈrs/
  • 3c3s*3s

sores

  • /sɔˈrz/
  • /sawˈrz/
  • /sôˈrz/
  • 3c3s2s

face

  • /feɪˈs/
  • /fayˈs/
  • /fāˈs/
  • 5c5t3s

phase

  • /feɪˈz/
  • /fayˈz/
  • /fāˈz/
  • 5c5t2s

loose

  • /luˈs/
  • /lueˈs/
  • /lo͞oˈs/
  • 6c3s

lose

  • /luˈz/
  • /lueˈz/
  • /lo͞oˈz/
  • 6c2s

noose

  • /nuˈs/
  • /nueˈs/
  • /no͞oˈs/
  • 4c3s

news

  • /nuˈz/
  • /nueˈz/
  • /no͞oˈz/
  • 4c2s

sauce

  • /sɔˈs/
  • /sawˈs/
  • /sôˈs/
  • 3c3s

saws

  • /sɔˈz/
  • /sawˈz/
  • /sôˈz/
  • 3c2s

juice

  • /ʤuˈs/
  • /jueˈs/
  • /jo͞oˈs/
  • 7c3s

Jews

  • /ʤuˈz/
  • /jueˈz/
  • /jo͞oˈz/
  • 7c2s

music

  • /mjuˈzɪk/
  • /myueˈzik/
  • /myo͞oˈzĭk/
  • 5s8c2t2s