Voiced palato-alveolar sibilant

From Teflpedia

ʒ

vision /ˈvɪʒən/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /ʒ/ corresponds to the consonant sound spelled "s" in words like "pleasure", and "usually". There aren't actually many words which have this sound on its own. The related phoneme /dʒ/, as in "job", is far more common.

Very few English words begin with /ʒ/, and those few that do tend to be loanwords from French that are pronounced in a somewhat French manner, the most common being the word genre /ʒɒnrə/.


This sound doesn't have its own letter, and the digraph "zh" was invented to represent it in some foreign transliterations. For example Solzhenitsyn is pronounced in English as /soʊlʒəˈniːtsɪn/. Even in English "zh" has been used, in the slang term "the /ju:ʒ/" (the usual) spelled "the yoozh"[1] or "the uzhe".[2]

/ʒ/ is a voiced consonant; its unvoiced counterpart is IPA phoneme /ʃ/.

/ʒ/ is a fricative; its affricate counterpart is IPA phoneme /dʒ/.

Note that in Chinese "zh" stands for [tʂ], a sound similar to /ts/ or /tʃ/ according to Wikipedia[3] or to /dʒ/ according to the very well known linguist John Wells.[4]

Common words[edit | edit source]

Some common words which practice the pronunciation of /ʒ/ include the following:

  • equation - usually
  • ending in "sion": conclusion - confusion - decision - division - occasion - provision - television - vision
  • ending in "sual": usual - visual
  • ending in "sure": exposure - measure - pleasure

Less common words[edit | edit source]

Some less common words which practise the pronunciation of /ʒ/ include the following:

  • beginning with /ʒ/ - genre /ʒɒnrə/, gendarme (a French policeman) /ʒɒndɑ:m/, Georges /ʒɔ:ʒ/
  • amnesia - luxurious /lʌɡˈʒʊərɪəs/ - seizure
  • ending in "ge": beige - collage - massage - mirage - rouge - sabotage
  • ending in "sual": casual
  • ending in "sion": collision - exclusion - explosion - fusion - illusion - inclusion - invasion - lesion - persuasion - precision - revision (note: ʃ for "ssion": concussion - impression - mission)
  • ending in "sure": disclosure - enclosure - leisure /ˈleʒər,BrE ˈliːʒər/AmE - treasure (note: ʃ for "ssure": pressure - fissure)

Variant pronunciations[edit | edit source]

  • anaesthesia,BrE anesthesiaAmE /ænəsˈθiːziə,BrE ænəsˈθiːʒəAmE/
  • coercion /kəʊˈɜːrʃən,BrE kəʊˈɜːrʒənAmE/
  • garage /ˈɡærɑːʒ,BrE ˈɡærɑːdʒ,BrE ˈɡærɪdʒ,BrE ɡəˈrɑːʒ,AmE ɡəˈrɑːdʒAmE/
  • lingerie /ˈlænʒəri,BrE lɑːndʒəˈreɪ,AmE lɑːnʒəˈreɪAmE/
  • massage /ˈmæsɑːʒ,BrE məˈsɑːʒAmE/

See also Pronunciation exercises: /ʒ/ vs /ʃ/ § Variant pronunciations.

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit | edit source]

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.

Chinese[edit | edit source]

In Mandarin Chinese "r" actually stands for [ɻ ~ ʐ], two speech sounds similar to [ɹ ~ ʒ]. For many speakers of Chinese, it may be difficult to distinguish the differences between /ʒ/ and /r/. They have particular difficulty with the common word "usually", being pronounced rather like "urually".

Spanish[edit | edit source]

Many teachers don't teach the phoneme /ʒ/ explicitly in the belief that students will imitate the teacher. However most Spanish speakers can't hear the difference between /ʒ/ and /ʃ/ and they are not aware that vision /ˈvɪʒən/ and mission /ˈmɪʃən/ don't rhyme.

Once they learn the sound, since it doesn't exist in Spanish, many Spanish speakers tend to pronounce it like /dʒ/.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Urban Dictionary, yoozh
  2. The Economist, The abbrevs are my plezh, 23rd Jan 2012
  3. Wikipedia, Voiceless retroflex affricate
  4. John Wells’s phonetic blog, the digraph zh, 29 September 2010.