I'm wondering how to pronounce these kind of words:

  • words
  • birds

I've tried to pronounce both /d/ and /z/ sound but it's really hard for me.

I noticed some of samples in dictionaries and it seems like they almost omit the /d/ sound.

  • 1
    without the /d/ sound you have whirs and burrs – nohat May 2 '14 at 0:09

The plural suffix -(e)s is typically pronounced in one of three ways:

  • /ɪz/ after sibilants (the six sounds /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, and /dʒ/).
  • /z/ after voiced sounds (including vowels) other than sibilants.
  • /s/ after voiceless sounds other than sibilants.

The /d/ sound is a voiced sound, and it's not a sibilant. So, following /d/ the plural suffix is pronounced /z/. Birds and words are pronounced /bɜrdz/ and /wɜrdz/ respectively.

Some words change form before the plural suffix. For example, leaf /liːf/ becomes leaves /liːvz/ rather than *leafs /liːfs/. In these cases, the pronunciation of the plural suffix is based on the changed form, not the basic form.

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  • 1
    +1 But it should be acknowledged that in real-life articulation the voicing on the /z/ is only fully realized before a voiced sound, such as a consonant, and is usually attenuated before a voiceless consonant or a silence. The speakers of isolated dictionary examples must choose between exaggerating the /z/, which sounds unnatural, like old-fashioned 'elocutionists', or letting the /z/ trail off naturally to /s/ on its way to silence. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 3 '14 at 17:39

In English, if a voiced consonant occurs at the end of a syllable,

  1. Any other consonant in the same cluster is voiced (hence, /ridz/)

  2. The preceding vowel gets lengthened. To many listeners, the length distinction is more important than the voicing distinction. So my practical advice, if you find /dz/ hard, is to exaggerate the vowel length when you communicate: /riiids/ will usually be heard as /ridz/.

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