Consonants /z/ versus /ʒ/, 11 pairs     [loosluge.html]

The /z/ sound is spelled with <s>, <se> or <z>. The /ʒ/ sound is spelled with <ge> or <su>.

This is a contrast between a sibilant fricative and an alveolar fricative, both voiced and fairly close together in the mouth. The only difference is the way the air is released, through a groove made by the tongue for /z/ and at the front of the tongue for /ʒ/. It can be a problem for many learners and some native speakers. Like the /s/ versus /ʃ/ distinction it is often used by actors to suggest the speech of somebody who is drunk, less often by novelists since the voiced /ʒ/ is hard to represent in normal orthography..

The mean density value is extremely low at 0.1%. The list makes 9 semantic distinctions, a loading of 81%.

baize beige
brews Bruges 
Caesar seizure
composer composure
eraser erasure
  erasers erasures
liaise Liège 
loos luge
loses luges
rues rouge 
  ruses rouges 

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010
updated Chiang Mai, 2024