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  1. #1
    literal is offline Newbie
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    Default Tongue position in /s/ sound

    My question is, what is the correct placement of the tongue in the /s/ sound, relative to the teeth? I'm aware it is behind the teeth, but how far? Does it make a difference if the tip is resting down, or just straight forward?

    I am just trying to confirm the absolute correct way, and if there's different positions (of the tongue) that produce the sound properly as well.

    Thank you very much.

  2. #2
    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    If it is at the front, against the teeth, it gives the "S' sound, as in snake or silly.
    Front and upward, it gives "z" sound, like "is"

    If the tongue is held back and down, it gives an Sh or Shur sound (as in sure)

    I once knew a woman from Vietnam who could not hear the difference between "sue" and "shoe"

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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    The key to a good 's' sound is that the teeth are completely together. As a native English speaker, tonight I tried to make an 's' sound with just the thin part of a pen cap between my teeth, and I couldn't make it sound right. As for the tongue position, it can't be right at the upper front teeth, or you block the air flow and you'll end up with a soft 'th' sound as in "thick." To pronounce "sick," you'll need to pull your tongue back away from your teeth about a 7-8mm (1/4 inch). A good way to practice is to start with a soft "th" sound, and while you continue to make that sound with your teeth closed, begin to pull your tongue back, but don't move the tip it down. Keep the tip near the top and the air flowing in a tight gap between the top of your mouth and your tongue. As you move the tightest part of the gap from the front teeth backward, you'll hear the sound get louder and much higher in pitch. When you go back too far while still forcing the air flow over the top of your tongue, the sound will quiet down again and it will sound a little like a Darth Vader impression. When the sound is the loudest and the highest pitch, that's the ideal position for the 's' sound.

    There's certainly more to it than that, but the tongue is a complex muscle and I can only describe so much with words. This is really something that is best learned by mimicking others in-person.

  4. #4
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    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Quote Originally Posted by fungicord View Post
    The key to a good 's' sound is that the teeth are completely together. As a native English speaker, tonight I tried to make an 's' sound with just the thin part of a pen cap between my teeth, and I couldn't make it sound right.
    I am also a native speaker of English, and for both "s" and "sh", my teeth are slightly, but still noticeably, parted. Making those sounds with my teeth actually touching seems forced and quite unnatural to me. Vive la différence!

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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Hi,

    the /s/ sound in made at what we call your alveolar ridge. That is, the bumpy surface right behind your front teeth. Another way to think of you alveolar ridge is the imagine the place that you would burn if you ate pizza that was TOO hot! Put your tongue right at that spot, and you will have it in the right place to say /s/.

    I apologize if this is advertising - but we have a video on our FREE software showing how to pronounce /s/ (and other sounds too) - it may help you to see that. You can get it for free at Accent School - AccentSchool FREE pronunciation software.

    Take care and please contact me if I can help you more!

    Thanks,

    Rebecca Allen, B.A., M.A.
    founder of accentschool.com
    Last edited by rebeccaataccentschool; 03-Apr-2008 at 03:54.

  6. #6
    literal is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Is it necessary to touch the ridge?

    I get what fungicord is saying and doing what he says I think I know what I am doing, however I don't feel my tongue touching the ridge as I would with the /l/ sound.

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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Quote Originally Posted by literal View Post
    Is it necessary to touch the ridge?

    I get what fungicord is saying and doing what he says I think I know what I am doing, however I don't feel my tongue touching the ridge as I would with the /l/ sound.
    Uh, I guess I should have been more specific. The /s/ sound is made at the alveolar ridge. The tongue touches at either side of the alveolar ridge, and the air channels through the middle of the tongue, "bouncing" off the alveolar ridge.

  8. #8
    literal is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Quote Originally Posted by rebeccaataccentschool View Post
    Uh, I guess I should have been more specific. The /s/ sound is made at the alveolar ridge. The tongue touches at either side of the alveolar ridge, and the air channels through the middle of the tongue, "bouncing" off the alveolar ridge.
    Hmm, I must be really behind because I thought the ridge was behind the front teeth? If the tongue touches at either side, where exactly is that if it's only behind the front teeth?

  9. #9
    anuragz is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    HI,
    As i have a slight lisp trouble so i'v read a lot about 'how to produce s sound'. But i m not able to figure out that what is the exact position to produce 's' sound ? on which alveolar ridge should be the tongue on ? upper or lower ? My natural tongue position for 's' is on upper alveolar ridge but it does not comes as sharp as it should be. But when i practice words with 's' sound by touching my tongue on lower alveolar ridge i produce much sharper 's' sound. But actually i m confused on how to produce /ts/, /ds/,(eg. baTS, paDS, poTS, STates) sounds as the tongue can not travel instantly from upper to lower alveolar ridge(/t/- upper, /s/- lower alveolar ridge). Can you plz clerify what should be the natural tongue position for /s/,/z/, /sh/, /ts/,/ds/.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Tongue position in /s/ sound

    Stuartnz, I agree with your comment that the teeth need to be a little bit apart, but it's a very small amount (1-2 mm). When I made my comment, I was thinking about the gap between the front teeth. Because those teeth can overlap without touching, they can be together (front-to-back) while no teeth touch.

    In response to Literal's question about where the tongue touches, it touches at the inner gum line of both bicuspid teeth (the teeth with 2 points each). If you feel the inside of your upper teeth, as you move from back to front, you'll notice that there's a drop-off where the bicuspids end and the cuspids begin. When you have your teeth nearly closed, you can feel that drop-off with your tongue. The tongue should not be able to feel the inside corners of your teeth; it should be relaxed more and pushed between the teeth at the gum line. While keeping the tongue between the teeth and not at the corners of the teeth, shape your tongue so that there's an air gap for you to breathe. You won't be able to make a very large gap, but it's enough that if you plug your nose, you can breathe through it. Now, while keeping the sides of your tongue still, you can move the tip of your tongue to close the gap and shut off air flow. If you do it quickly while exhaling, it will make a sound like like a drum cymbal.

    This is also the answer to Anuragz's question. The "drum cymbal" effect is how you make the /ts/ sound in "pots". The word has a moment of silence between the t and the s. It's that moment when the tip of your tongue is blocking the air flow for the /t/ sound at the alveolar ridge (for the upper teeth) and the sides of your tongue are moved between the upper bicuspid teeth at the gum line. Once your tongue is in position, you relax only the tip of your tongue to let air begin to flow again. The only difference between "pots" and "pods" is whether your vocal cords are moving during the sound. The tongue doesn't have to move between two different positions on the alveolar ridge to move between these two sounds; the tip only has to relax to allow air to pass.

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