English plural -(e)s (was: question - Turco-Japanese.... )
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, November 26, 2004, 7:31|
On Thursday, November 25, 2004, at 07:28 , Joe wrote:
> Ray Brown wrote:
>> I think this is another example where we must not be led astray by
>> spelling. The French feminine plural was /s/, as was the nom. masculine
>> singular & the oblique masc. plural. What we are concerned with in
>> is /z/.
Yep - Joe is right - I should have written [z].
>> The sound denoted by the Rune usually transcribed as -R is thought to
>> still had a sibilant pronunciation at the time of the Viking/Danish
>> settlement in Britain. In other words, your -r plurals were still
>> pronounced something like -z.
> Well, the English wasn't /z/ - it was /s/, pronounced [z] (though I
> think this actually varied dialectally)
I am sure it did. The point is that Old English had one phoneme, usually
written /s/ because of the spelling (in theory it could just as well be
written /z/) with allophones [s] and [z]. Similarly it has a phoneme /T/
with allophones [T] and [D], and a phoneme /f/ with allophones [f] and [v]
The conventional pronunciation is to voice the sounds if they occur
between voiced sounds (i.e. vowels and consonants such as _l_, _r_, _m_
and _n_ ) and to pronounce them voiceless elsewhere. This means, of course,
that plural -as would be [as] or [az] depending upon what follows. Tho I
am sure Joe is right is suspecting dialect variation. But as far the Old
English were concerned [s] and [z] were the "same sound".
But what I was saying in the second paragraph is that at the time of the
Viking/Danish settlement the sound that is conventionally transcribed _R_
when transcribing runes, and later merged with /r/, was still pronounced
[z] and thus to them /s/ and /z/ would be separate phonemes. But the
English speakers could identify their plural ending /s/ with the
new-comers plural ending /z/, because to the English it was the same sound!
the effect also, it seems to me, would be to confirm the sound of the
plural ending as [z].
On Thursday, November 25, 2004, at 05:38 , Joe wrote:
> Joe wrote:
>> Paul Bennett wrote:
>> On Thu, 25 Nov 2004 07:28:21 +0000, Joe <joe@...> wrote:
>>> Well, the English wasn't /z/ - it was /s/, pronounced [z] (though I
>>> think this actually varied dialectally)
>> I'm not sure the general population at the time were accomplished enough
>> phoneticians to know what an allophone was. Sounds like |z|? It's a |z|.
The general population in 2004 are not accomplished enough phoneticians to
know what an allophone is. To anglophones the |l| in _leaf_ and in _full_
are the "same sound", to a Russian speaker they are two different sounds.
What the general population, whether in Old England, or the modern world
consider a different sound depends upon the contrasts within the speaker's
In Old English |s| was pronounced _both_ [s] _and_ [z], therefore as
regards [z] - sounds like |s|, it is an |s|.
> Well, it was written <s>, which suggests probably that it was treated as
> the same sound.
Of course it was.
> To improve on that - allophones exist in languages where phonetics is
> not advanced.
Of course - allophones exists quite independently of phoneticians. They
are simply not normally noticed.
> I would say that a French or Norse origin would both be
> equally sensible, because [z] being an allophone of /s/,
I used to think it was French - till wiser people (on this list at the
time IIRC) put me right. There are problems with the French idea. In
French /s/ and /z/ are different phonemes and the feminine plurals &
accusative masculine plurals certainly had [s]. The English [z]
pronunciation does seem to be old. One wonders also how much actual
_conversation_ took place between Norman nobles and English peasants in
the first century or so after the conquest. The official language of lae
courts etc. was Norman French for some time I think.
> It's a distinct possibility that the Norse invasion started it, and the
> French reinforced it. And the one that seems the most likely to me,
That may be so - but I am informed that the it was the intercourse between
the Danelaw and the rest of England that was the decider.
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]