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I know the sound name of 's' or 'sh' is called sibilant. This pronunciation name is useful and could be used to summarize the pronunciation rules, instead of listing all the individual letters.

But for this list - 's', 'z', 'sh', 'ch' and 'j'(/dʒ/) , what is their sound name? If there is no such a single name to cover them all, what's the descriptive language for them?

This list is special because the final 's' at the end of their plural forms is pronounced as /əz/.

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You are wrong about a word ending "sh" (like crash) being pronounced /əz/. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology for some names. It's not exactly clear what you are asking for. –  Andrew Leach May 15 '13 at 9:46
    
Sorry, I didn't make it clear. Edit again. –  canoe May 15 '13 at 10:10
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A Wikipedia page on English phonology has the following:

  • s: /s/ unvoiced alveolar fricative
  • z: /z/ voiced alveolar fricative
  • sh: /ʃ/ unvoiced post-alveolar fricative
  • ch: /tʃ/ unvoiced post-alveolar affricate
  • j: /dʒ/ voiced post-alveolar affricate

There’s also the terminal sound in a word like luge (the tobogganing sport):

  • /ʒ/ voiced post-alveolar fricative [that is, related to /ʃ/]

However they are all sibilants and listed as such in Wikipedia.

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2  
These are precisely the sounds that produce automatic insertion of epenthetic /ə/ in the Noun Plural, Noun Possessive, and Verb Present Tense morphemes. Because these are all /z/, and it's very hard to pronounce two sibilants together and hear the difference. –  John Lawler May 15 '13 at 13:55
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@JohnLawler Difficult for English speakers, anyway. Japanese has minimal pairs like shi and sushi which are moderately difficult for English speakers to hear and very difficult to pronounce because of the unvoiced U in sushi. –  Bradd Szonye May 15 '13 at 23:01
    
Sure, but Japanese speakers have lots more phonetic details to cue on than English speakers. –  John Lawler May 15 '13 at 23:58
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