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  1. suprunp's Avatar
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    #1

    observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    So before you make any judgements based on your observations be sure to think about the things you aren't observing.
    (You're wrong about more than you think; YouTube)

    Would you be so kind as to tell me whether I've heard him correctly pronouncing 'observations' as [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n] (with an 's' instead of a 'z')?

    Out of all the dictionaries I've got only 'Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language' and 'Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary' do acknowledge the two possible pronunciations, while 'Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary' only registers the one with an 's'; all other dictionaries only list the one with a 'z'.

    I wonder what could possibly be 'wrong' with the 's'-variation since only a couple of dictionaries seem to be aware of its existence?

    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    The speaker is speaking slowly and forcefully, which does shift his Z towards an /s/. This isn't an alternative pronunciation but rather a quirk in the way he happened to produce the word that one time.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    'Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary' only registers the one with an 's'
    Are you sure? The 'normal' way (according to the rules) of pronouncing this word is with a /z/.

    It's difficult to distinguish pronunciation patterns of word-final sounds when there is no following 'connecting word' because the pronunciation of sounds can be affected by those other sounds that come before and after them. By 'connecting word' here I mean a word which connects the final sound of one word to the initial sound of another.

    If there were a connecting word beginning with a vowel (for example if he said observations of ... or observations are ...), then you would hear clearly that only a /z/ is used for the sound represented by 's'. If the connecting word were to begin with a consonant, then the pronunciation of 's' could be /s/.

    Without there being such a connecting word, it does sound a bit like he's using a voiceless /s/ (he cuts out his voice just before the aspiration of the final sound) but I'd still transcribe it as a /z/, which would be the 'normal' way of pronouncing the word in isolation, according to the rules.

  4. probus's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    I heard the same thing as you, suprump. An s rather than a z sound. I've never heard anyone else do that

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    #5

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    'Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary' only registers the one with an 's'
    It does indeed. However, it gives 'observe' and 'observer' with a /z/. I think the 'observation' transcription is simply a typo.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    It does indeed. However, it gives 'observe' and 'observer' with a /z/. I think the 'observation' transcription is simply a typo.
    Oops!

    I just now realise that my whole post #3 was focused on the 's' at the end of the word, not the one in the middle! How silly of me. Sorry for any confusion.

    (Anyway, really? Yes, that must be a typo.)

  7. suprunp's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    It does indeed. However, it gives 'observe' and 'observer' with a /z/. I think the 'observation' transcription is simply a typo.
    I've noticed that almost any unexpected irregularity (and this one is not that unexpected one could argue) can be explained away as a typo in the English language. Just an observation.

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    #8

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    Out of all the dictionaries I've got only 'Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language' and 'Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary' do acknowledge the two possible pronunciations,
    This strongly suggests that the /s/ version is very rare indeed, so rare that most dictionaries do not recognise it.

    while 'Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary' only registers the one with an 's'; all other dictionaries only list the one with a 'z'.
    That dictionary may be the only one in the universe that is right, or there might be an error.

    I wonder what could possibly be 'wrong' with the 's'-variation since only a couple of dictionaries seem to be aware of its existence?
    It is so rare that most dictionaries do not accept it as worth noting.

    I've noticed that almost any unexpected irregularity (and this one is not that unexpected one could argue) can be explained away as a typo in the English language.
    This particular irregularity is unexpected and the /s/ pronunciation is unnatural to the overwhelming majority of native speakers. When we find such a situation in a dictionary from a reputable publisher, we conclude that either the phonetics editor is woefully ignorant, or there has been a typo. The typo conclusion seems more reasonable.

  9. suprunp's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    This particular irregularity is unexpected and the /s/ pronunciation is unnatural to the overwhelming majority of native speakers. When we find such a situation in a dictionary from a reputable publisher, we conclude that either the phonetics editor is woefully ignorant, or there has been a typo. The typo conclusion seems more reasonable.
    It may be unexpected indeed, but compared to all the other letters of the English alphabet it is the one that is most likely to end up here (and not by chance). I find it particularly interesting and hard to reconcile the fact that this is the only letter apart from a 'z' that can be actually expected here and that this is considered to be a typo at the same time. (If it were an 'f', for example, there'd be no doubt whatsover that this is a typo - [ɒ̱bfə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n], but an 's' out of all the letters?)

  10. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: observation [ɒ̱bsə(r)ve͟ɪʃ(ə)n]

    Well, maybe not a typo exactly, but an oversight on the editor's part. The issue is that it says that it registers only the /s/ and not the far more common /z/. That has to be an error, doesn't it?

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