Schlechtweg, Marcel; Corbett, Greville G. (2021):
"The Duration of Word-Final s in English:: A Comparison of Regular-Plural and Pluralia-Tantum Nouns." Morphology 31.4: 383-407.
Journal Article

The alveolar fricative occurs in word-final position in English in different grammatical functions. Nominal suffixes may indicate plurality (e.g. cars), genitive case (e.g. car’s) or plurality and genitive case in cumulation (e.g. cars’). Further, there are the third person singular verbal suffix (e.g. she fears) and the cliticized forms of the third person singular forms of have and be (e.g. she’s been lucky; she’s friendly). There is also non-affixal s (e.g. freeze (noun)). Against the standard view that all these types are homophonous, several empirical studies have shown that at least some of the fricatives listed can actually be differentiated in their duration. The present article expands this line of research and considers a further case, which has not been included in previous analyses: pluralia-tantum nouns (e.g. goggles). We report on a carefully controlled reading study in which native speakers of British English produced pluralia-tantum and comparable regular-plural nouns (e.g. toggles). The duration of the word-final fricative was measured, and it was found that the two do not systematically differ in this acoustic parameter. The new data are interpreted in comparison to relevant previous studies, and against the background of the similarities of pluralia-tantum and regular-plural nouns.