- Consonant voicing and devoicing
Sound change and alternation Fortition Dissimilation
In phonology, voicing (or sonorization) and devoicing are sound changes, whereby a consonant changes its type of voicing from voiceless to voiced, or vice versa, due to the influence of a phonological element in its phonological environment. Most commonly, the change is caused because of sound assimilation with an adjacent sound of opposite voicing, but it can also occur word-finally or in contact with specific vowel.
For example, English suffix -s is pronounced [s] when it follows a voiceless phoneme (cats), and [z] when it follows a voiced phoneme (dogs).
- belief - believe
- life - live
- proof - prove
- strife - strive
- thief - thieve
- ba[θ] - ba[ð]e
- brea[θ] - brea[ð]e
- mou[θ] (n.) - mou[ð] (vb.)
- shea[θ] - shea[ð]e
- wrea[θ] - wrea[ð]e
- choi[s]e - choo[z]e
- hou[s]e (n.) - hou[z]e (vb.)
- u[s]e (n.) - u[z]e (vb.)
- cat + s > cats
- dog + s > do[ɡz]
- miss + ed > mi[st]
- whizz + ed > whi[zd]
The voicing alternation found in plural formation is losing ground in the modern language,, and of the alternations listed below many speakers retain only the [f-v] pattern, which is supported by the orthography. This voicing is a relic of Old English, the unvoiced consonants between voiced vowels were 'colored' with voicing. As the language became more analytic and less inflectional, final vowels/syllables stopped being pronounced. For example, modern knives is a one syllable word instead of a two syllable word, with the vowel 'e' not being pronounced. However, the voicing alternation between [f] and [v] still occurs.
- knife - knives
- leaf - leaves
- wife - wives
- wolf - wolves
The following mutations are optional:
- ba[θ] - ba[ð]s
- mou[θ] - mou[ð]s
- oa[θ] - oa[ð]s
- pa[θ] - pa[ð]s
- you[θ] - you[ð]s
- hou[s]e - hou[z]es
Sonorants (/l r w j/) following aspirated fortis plosives (that is, /p t k/ in the onsets of stressed syllables unless preceded by /s/) are devoiced such as in please, crack, twin, and pewter.
Initial voicing is a process of historical sound change where voiceless consonants become voiced at the beginning of a word. For example, modern German sagen [ˈzaːɡn̩], Yiddish זאָגן [ˈzɔɡn̩], and Dutch zeggen [ˈzɛɣə] (all "say") all begin with [z], which derives from [s] in an earlier stage of Germanic, as still attested in English say, Swedish säga [ˈsɛːja], and Icelandic segja [ˈseiːja]. Some English dialects were affected this as well, but it is rare in modern English. One example is fox (with the original consonant) compared to vixen (with a voiced consonant).
Final devoicing is a systematic phonological process occurring in languages such as German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian, among others. In these languages, voiced obstruents in the syllable coda or at the end of a word become voiceless.
- Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 239–245
- Grijzenhout, Janet (2000), Voicing and devoicing in English, German, and Dutch; evidence for domain-specific identity constraints, http://user.phil-fak.uni-duesseldorf.de/~grijzenh/sfb116-voice.PDF
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