The consonant phoneme found in the middle of the word measure is a common topic during introductory cued English workshops. While it may occur with less frequency than other consonant phonemes, the /zh/ or /ʒ/ is still a necessary segment in dialects of American English and is found in hundreds of words.
In most (if not all) variations of phonemic representation methods, the consonant is transcribed as /zh/. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol is /ʒ/ and the name of the letter is the yogh. In Americanist phonetic notation, which is used in the book Cued Language Structure, the symbol is written as a z with a hacek – /ž/.
While this page is devoted to the topic of /zh/, it is important for both new cuers and instructors to realize that any word is subject to varitions in dialect. It’s key that new cuers learn to recognize /zh/ whether they say garage with handshape 1 or handshape 7.
While it is common for words containing /zh/ to be included during the introduction of handshape 1, instructors may want to provide other opportunities to recognize /zh/ during an introductory course. Inclusion of words like garage, prestige, and luxury after the other necessary cues have been covered will help students incorporate /zh/ into their cueing.
There’s little argument that /zh/ occurs with less frequency than /p/ or /d/. However, instructors should avoid downplaying the phoneme so much that students disregard it. Common myths among beginners include that /zh/ occurs in fewer than 10 English words or that it only occurs in French words.
For intermediate-level workshops, instructors can provide exercises where cuers recognize and cue /zh/ words from a list of similar foils (words that do not contain /zh/ but have similarly produced phonemes). For example: admission, cushion, fashion, pigeon, tissues,
Instruction of /zh/ to Deaf Adults
One of the most common issues in teaching deaf adults to cue or working with native cuers attending beginner or intermediate classes is dealing with the “I never knew that!” response. This is especially prevalent when introducing or reviewing words that contain a /zh/ consonant as opposed to the generally anticipated or predicted /j/ or /sh/ consonant.
Individuals who are deaf may not hear whether an uncommon word has a /zh/ versus a /j/ or /sh/ (all of which appear the same when lip reading). In general, cuers who have had exposure to these words through cueing acquire the correct pronunciation passively. However, for words that are encountered solely through print, later memorization and recognition of patterns among similar words may be necessary. Some words that use /zh/ (e.g., concierge) come by way of French. Similarly, most “_easure” words (e.g., pleasure, measure, and treasure) are also /zh/ words.
The word lists above include the most common /zh/ words and can be provided to deaf adults who want to ensure they are cueing these words accurately.