ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Linguistics, The Difference Between Cat[s] and Dog[z]

Updated on February 22, 2012
Source

What exactly is the difference between cats and dogz? The common answers come up quickly; Dogs slobber, Cats are clean, Dogs are friendly, Cats are more aloof.

Of course in a linguistics class nobody is going to guess that. Actually most kids will just sit there and wonder "What the heck is my teacher talking about?"
Because in the context of linguistics it is quite difficult to tell the difference between cats and dogz.
I gave you a hint already. Go ahead say them out loud. Cats. Dogz. Why am I spelling them that way? Can you tell anything?
If you say the word 'cats' out loud slowly and then follow it with Dogs out loud, you might hear the difference. Still don't hear anything? Place two fingers on your throat and try it again.

Pay close attention and you will notice that when you say the word "dogs" your throat vibrates a good amount on the "s" sound. When you say the word "cats" there is no vibration on the "s" sound.
Accompanying this vibration you'll realize that when you say dogs in context, you are actually pronouncing the plural sound "s" as a "z". Now say the sentence "I walked my dogs to the grocery store" and then replace 'dogs' with cats in the sentence "I walked my cats to the grocery store"
All native English speakers (this might not work if English is a second language for you) will be replacing that 's' sound with a 'z' but only on the dog.

So whats happening? Turns out there are certain rules in the English language (all languages have them) that affect the way certain sounds are pronounced. In this case English will change the 's' plural sound into a 'z' because the consonant preceding it is a voiced consonant.
A voiced consonant?

A voiced what?

A few observations to understand this more clearly:

All sounds have a few features that will distinguish them from one another. Otherwise all language would sound the same and we wouldn't be able to communicate!
One such feature is called "voicing". In the case of the sounds [s] and [z] it is the only feature that distinguishes them. Yep that's correct, the only difference between [s] and [z] is the feature voicing. You can tell this by doing a simple test. Go ahead and place those two fingers back on your throat. Now say out-loud (loudly! don't be shy) "ssssssss" and then change to "zzzzzzz"
You'll notice that the only thing changing between [s] and [z] is your vocal cords turning "on" and "off". [z] is voiced and [s] is voiceless.
So what? Well in the word cat the [t] at the end of 'cat' is also voiceless. In the word 'dog' the [g] at the end of 'dog' is voiced! So what does English do? When you have to add a plural sound to a word, English will actually always pick between one of two sounds: [s] or [z] and it will pick based whether or not the final sound of the base word is voiced or voiceless.

If you want to test out the theory just try it on some other words. Can you guess what the real sound of bags is? Or how about "hubs"? Is it really an [s] there?
If you still don't believe me try it with a made up word all together. Finish this sentence for me. "I had a Wug, then I got two Wug[?]"
What sound do you add to make a Wug plural? What about another made up word like "lup". "I had a lup, now I have two lup[?]"

Clearly the English language is a bit smarter than we realize. By alternating the sound used at the end of the word, we are saving ourselves the effort of having to “turn off” or “turn on” our vocal cords. This in turn increases the efficiency of English.

Is this kind of information useful?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Nordy profile image

      Nordy 6 years ago from Canada

      I have never noticed this until you mentioned it, very interesting!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)