How do you pronounce "English Speakers"? Do you treat sh and s as similar consonants?

  • 4
    Similar, yes. Identical, no. When I say "English speakers" I have no trouble moving from a clear (but short) /ʃ/ to a clear (also short) /s/ sound. Phonemic hurdles like these are what you grow up with. If you didn't grow up with them, you can have a hard time. – Robusto Jun 22 '19 at 20:13
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    If it's too much of a tongue twister, you can also say (native) speakers of English. – Jason Bassford Jun 22 '19 at 20:49
  • The "sh" sound followed by the "s" sound does not cause much difficulty for native English speakers to hear and distinguish, unless the person speaking is slurring his words quite a bit. A word ending with "s" followed by a word starting with "s" would cause more difficulty. – Hot Licks Jun 23 '19 at 1:42
  • @HotLicks, I agree with your observation. Compare "dish soap" and "miss shoes". The latter is difficult to say with "s" unassimilated to following "sh". I wish I understood why this is. – Greg Lee Jun 23 '19 at 2:22
  • @Greg Lee I don't find "miss shoes" any harder to say or involving more assimilation than "dish soap." "Place setting" doesn't seem difficult to say either. – mic Jun 23 '19 at 2:59

As an American native English speaker, the adjacent "sh" and "s" are both pronounced and would be heard by those who grew up with English. Yes, the sounds are related, but that does not imply the sounds should be merged or one of them skipped. In fact, if one tried to merge them, the person might sound like they are slurring their words, possibly inebriated.

The sounds are distinctive enough to be key in a common tongue twister:

She sells seashells by the Seychelles seashore.

What makes it tricky to say is that one's tongue desires to transform some of the lone "s" to "sh".

  • Actually, it's "She shells C-cells by the she store." – Hot Licks Jun 23 '19 at 1:43
  • I've never heard it with Seychelles in it, only "by the seashore". But maybe it's a British version. – Barmar Jun 24 '19 at 19:16

As a non-native English speaker who is a lot around natives and non-natives, "sh" and "s" are different sounds, both of them enunciated and distinguishable.

Since in my native language those two sounds are coded to very different spelling patterns (sibilant associated with S, SS, and Ç mainly; and fricative associated with CH and SH mainly), there is not much of a tongue twister.

According to my German colleague - Disclaimer: I don't speak any German, it's his account, not mine - the spelling S (as in Strasse) is pronounced fricative, so he frequently mispronounces words spelled like "Speakers" when he has never heard it out loud.

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