I am a native U.K. speaker with a strong Midlands dialect, and I am very aware of other dialects and regional accents from around the world of English speakers, and I really enjoy this.
I am a data scientist, with a strong interest in natural language processing, and I have a problem with the phonetic representation of the word oranges. NOTE: Not singular orange, I am specifically referencing the plural word oranges.
So here is my problem, illustrated with references from different online resources:
- youtube pronunciation video | How to Pronounce Oranges
- forvo pronunciation audio files | How to Pronounce Oranges
- youdao dictionary definition | [ɔrɪndʒs]
- baidu dictionary | 英 [‘ɒrɪndʒs] 美 [‘ɒrɪndʒs]
- phonetic link | /’ɒrɪndʒɪz/
- phonetic link | ˈɑrɪndʒəz
- CMU pronouncing dict, ARPABET | AO R AH N JH AH Z .
I live in China, and Chinese internet resources such as 3. and 4., show that dʒ is followed straight away by s, meanwhile, other websites such as 5. and 6., show at least some phonetic “e sounding phoneme” in between dʒ and s.
From a native speaker perspective, I feel that 5., 6. and 7. are correct in the final stages of the word in order to make it plural, while 3. and 4. are incorrect. So as a native speaker, with almost 30 years of experience with the language, tend to believe my instincts in a lot of circumstances.
Now when I try to persuade colleagues that resources 3. and 4. are not correct, I fail straight away because these corporations tend to be treated as the truth. As such they do not believe me, emulate the phoneme suggestions of 3. and 4. and proceed to say the word from what I see as incorrect, which brings up more problems in the app we are building, described further below.
I know my mouth can produce the sound /s/ straight after /dʒ/, so my first theory that it is just a natural reflex of the mouth to add a slight vowel sound in between /s/ and /dʒ/, thus not needing to actually include this vowel phoneme in the phonetic representation of the word, was disproved.
My second thought that as a native speaker, have I learned this addition of a vowel from the natural evolution of language? Was it many many years ago pronounced without a final vowel sound? As such, the phonetic representation of oranges has now changed?
So with different resources providing different information, is there a more definitive way or better solution as to better accurately describe how the word is said, or in part, said by the vast majority? And I’m really not talking about accent based, like U.S.A vs UK banana, but more like the word oranges, that so far to me, is not regionally bound for the addition of a vowel near the end to make it plural.
We have a phonetic analysis tool in our app, where the user can say some words and it will try to determine whether these phonemes have been uttered, but with these different definitions and expected phonemes present in the word, this becomes even more difficult because right now I am unclear as the what phonemes should be expected to be uttered for that word, if an additional vowel is picked up, should that be treated as the correct ending, or not?
This post was fairly difficult to write, as phonetics are very much an audio-based thing, so if anything was unclear, please let me know and I’ll try to re-word it better.
A non-negotiable phonological rule of all standard Englishes inserts a vowel (either /ə/ or /ɪ/, depending on the variety of English) between base-final sibilant consonants and the plural morpheme /z/. The /z/ morpheme remains voiced in this position after a vowel.
The sibilant consonants in English are /s, z, ʃ, ʒ, tʃ, dʒ/
Therefore for the following words:
- bus /bʌs/
- quiz /kwɪz/
- rush /rʌʃ/
- beige /beɪʒ/
- hutch /hutʃ/
- judge /dʒʌdʒ/
We see the following plurals:
- buses /bʌsɪz/
- quizzes /kwɪzɪz/
- rushes /rʌʃɪz/
- beiges /beɪʒɪz/
- hutches /hutʃɪz/
- judges /dʒʌdʒɪz/
And the word oranges is therefore /’ɒrɪndʒɪz/ in so-called Standard British or /’ɔːrɪndʒəz/ in General American. In General American there may be some variation in the initial vowel or in terms of whether speakers use /ɪ/ or /ə/ in the final syllable. However, there is NO exception to the insertion of a final vowel before the plural morpheme in either British or American standard Englishes.
Notice that both the youdau and baidu entries are completely and utterly incorrect giving an /s/ variant of the plural morpheme after a voiced consonant. This is a phonological impossibility in English.
For a beginner-level introduction to English plurals, the Original Poster’s colleagues could be directed here: Rachel’s English.
Why are some internet dictionaries unreliable? Well, they are not published by reputable publishers or based on research.