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Could it be that sometimes the voiced alveolar sibilant [z] at the end of a syllable merges with a following palatal approximant [j] to produce a voiced postalveolar sibilant [ʒ]?

Bob Dylan clearly sings "close your eyes", whereas The Hollies seem to say "closureyes".

Is this a dialect thing?

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    This looked like a question about complex numbers for a moment. :)
    – Lawrence
    May 7, 2021 at 11:55

1 Answer 1

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Yes, [z] + [j] → [ʒ]. The [z] is an alveolar sound (i.e. articulated at the alveolar ridge) while [j] is a palatal sound (articulated at the hard palate), so when [j] comes right after [z], it pulls the place of articulation of [z] towards the hard palate, making it [ʒ]. The technical term for this phenomenon is assimilation. In this case, it's assimilation of place (i.e. the place of articulation of one of the two adjacent sounds is changed). It doesn't always happen. Some speakers assimilate their sounds while others don't.

Other alveolar sounds that usually assimilate (merge) are:

  • [s] + [j] → [ʃ]
  • [d] + [j] → [d͡ʒ]
  • [t] + [j] → [t͡ʃ]

You will also hear miss you being pronounced something like mishoo. In many words, assimilation has taken place historically, for example, mission, pleasure, gradual, feature etc (mostly monomorphemic words). In some words such as issue and azure, it has taken place for some speakers; others might pronounce them with [sj] and [zj] respectively. Also, as @Colin Fine pointed out in the comments below, it's dialectal and depends on individual speakers.

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    I take issue with your last sentence: it is dialectal as well as depending on individual speakers, and it is not always a feature of fast or colloquial speech (I pass over the calumny of "sloppy"). Pleasure has a /ʒ/ for most speakers, irrespective of register or speed. Azure has it for some and not others. For some speakes, erasure has it only when speaking fast or informally.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 13, 2021 at 15:10
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    @ColinFine: the /ʒ/ in pleasure and azure is historical assimilation/ palatalisation. Apr 13, 2021 at 15:12
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    Yes, and? Azure does not have /ʒ/ for me.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 13, 2021 at 15:14
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    @ColinFine: updated accordingly Apr 13, 2021 at 17:46
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    The BBC's website has a few easy short videos on this bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/towards-advanced/…
    – Pablo GM
    May 4, 2021 at 17:53

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