My dictionary says "is" is pronounced /ɪs/ or /s/ when it's before the unvoiced sounds except two unvoiced sounds /s/ and /ʃ/. (Also, It says "is" is pronounced /ɪz/ or /z/ when it's before the voiced sounds except two voiced sounds /z/ and /ʒ/.)

Is this really true?

  • Where was your dictionary written and published? What dialect of English does it claim to represent? What is its copyright date?
    – Jasper
    Jul 30 '19 at 4:33
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    @Jasper It's a Korean English dictionary published by a Korean company. I couldn't find out the date of this dictionary and it doesn't say anything about what dialect of English the pronunciation rule is applied. It's not yet published online. But I've already heard from some native speakers that this dictionary seems to be wrong.
    – GKK
    Jul 30 '19 at 7:00
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    As a native BrE speaker the only instances I can think of where the "i" is not pronounced are in contractions such as "he's", "it's", "John's" (not possessive but "John is" as in" John's coming over for tea") etc. Maybe I'm not understanding the question properly, would you please add some examples of where your dictionary thinks it happens? Off topic note, contractions such as "he's" can be either "he is" or "he has" depending on context. Jul 30 '19 at 9:48

Cambridge English Dictionary lists three pronunciation for 'is':

strong /ɪz/ weak /z/ /s/

The usual pronunciation of 'is' is /ɪz/, but as your dictionary says, it can assimilate to [ɪs] before an unvoiced sound. There's a tendency to make nearby sounds more similar to each other, so when 'is' is followed by another word beginning with an unvoiced sound, the voicing of 'is' is turned off and it becomes [ɪs]. Note that the only difference between [ɪs] and [ɪz] is voicing.

Before /ʃ/, 'is' is likely to assimilate to /ʃ/ as in it is shining. Before another /s/, it often geminates (lengthened): ... is sunny.

Before /z/, 'is' is likely to become a geminated z: ... is zoo.

So yeah, your dictionary is basically right. But don't expect everyone to assimilate their 'is's.

  • typo: 'lists three pronunciations*'
    – Void
    Jan 1 at 21:15

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