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Pronunciation poll

How do you pronounce the consonant in the middle of the word "Asia", when speaking English?

like "s" in "sugar" [ʃ]
like "s" in "leisure" [ʒ]
like "s" in "stop" [s]
like "s" in "bugs" [z]
I don't know
Other which I will explain in comments


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 6th, 2009 10:50 am (UTC)
I would say most Americans probably pronounce "Asia", "leisure" and "sugar" with very much the same s-sound....
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
Really, [ʒ] in "sugar"?
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:07 am (UTC)
Well, I sat here repeating all three words, and the consonant, for some time before concluding that yeah, it's all pretty much the same sound. Americans (or this one, anyway, and to the best of my recollection most of the people I've heard) us a "sh" sound for all three words, instead of a harder "sz" sound. I can say it with the more silibant "s" that I associate with the way Brits/Irish say "leisure", but that's not the typical sound I'd use.
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:12 am (UTC)
Ah, I think I see: you're saying that Americans pronounce "leisure" (and "Asia") with an [ʃ]?
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC)
Since I am far far too lazy to go look up what "[ʃ]" sounds like, I'm going to blithely say "Yes!" and admit that <lj user="pnh" has below convinced me of the error of my ways to at least some degree. :)
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
[ʃ] is an unvoiced postalveolar fricative, as in "ship", "fish", or "mission".
[ʒ] is a voiced postalveolar fricative, as in "beige" or "vision".
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:04 am (UTC)
Really? I'm pretty sure most Americans use an unvoiced "sh" to say "sugar" and a voiced "zh" for the S in "leisure" and "Asia".
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
Hm, well, maybe so. *squints thoughtfully* (ok, now I'm going "lee-zure, Ae-zha, shu-gar" in my head. Yeah, ok, I may have been convinced of the error of my ways... :))
Dec. 6th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)
That's what this American does.
Dec. 6th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
And this one.
Dec. 6th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Wha? Sugar doesn't even HAVE an "s" sound per se, it has the "SH" sound from "Sure as Shootin'". Asia and leisure CAN have the same sound, depending on who's speaking. For me, Asia ("Ay-zja") is a soft "Z" sound, which is also present in "leezyoor".
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
The OED doesn't have an entry for Asia. For Asian it only has the pronunciations /eɪʃən/ and /eɪʃɪən/. Some revision needed!
Dec. 6th, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
This is linked to my inspiration for the question. Long ago I saw the pronunciation /eɪʃə/ given not only as correct but as one of the standard words to illustrate how /ʃ/ is pronounced. I have hardly ever heard this - for me as for most respondents to the above poll, /eɪʒə/ is the only natural pronunciation.

But listening to the surviving soundtrack of The Myth Makers, a Doctor Who story from 1965, I was struck that the actors all use the /eɪʃə/ pronunciation. The word is used on 8 occasions, twice by Jack Melford as Menelaus (episodes 1 and 3), three times by Max Adrian as Priam (twice in episode 2 and once in episode 3), twice by Barrie Ingham as Paris (both in episode 3) and once by Ivor Salter as Odysseus (also episode 3). On all 8 occasions the /ʃ/ is distinct.

It's obviously crisper to say /eɪʃə/, and judging by comments elsewhere on this post it may not even be noticeably wrong for a lot of people. I have a feeling that this was 'posh' pronunciation, which communicated itself to drama students of the early to mid twentieth century (Melford and Adrian were born around 1900, Ingham and Salter around 1930). But I'm glad that this poll at least is confirming my own preconceptions!
Dec. 7th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
I assume the reason for this is that either the actors or scriptwriters or both were classically educated, and were trying to follow a Greek pronunciation?
Dec. 8th, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)
It seems more likely to me (given what we see in the OED) that /eɪʃə/ was the only (or the most common) pronunciation for the word in the 1960s, and /eɪʒə/ is a more recent development.
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
I am actually very surprised that there are alternatives to option 2... Interesting.

(And I commend you for specifying "when speaking English". And as a totally unasked-for bit of information, in Italian it would be [z].)
Dec. 6th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
A good qualification - in Welsh you'd apply the "si followed by a vowel is pronounced sh" rule, so it's ah-sha.
Dec. 6th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
My aunt, who has been speaking English for 50 years (but is not a native speaker), always uses [ʃ] when the rest of us use [ʒ]. I have no idea why, since none of her siblings do it, and she has no obvious speech impediment otherwise.
Dec. 6th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
The way *I* pronounce it, it's a sort of soft Z. Which would be fairly close to the S in leisure the way I pronounce it, but not at all like the S in leisure the way I've heard it pronounced by some others.

Dec. 7th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
Option 2 - although in my pronunciation there is not much difference between options 2 and 4.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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