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[z] vs [ð]
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[z] vs [ð]

LEVEL 3 |

Today we are going to talk about -th- when it sounds like [ð]. 

 

Voiced by Jacob Howard and Oleksandra Mazur

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[z] vs [ð]

- Andrea, over here.

- Hi, Adam. I thought I'd never find you in this crowd. What are all zese people doing here?

- These people? It seems I got the right pair of sounds for today.

- Did I say it wrong?

- No, don't worry. You're so jumpy sometimes.

- It's because you correct me all the time. I know, I know, I asked for it. So, what are the sounds?

- Do you remember when we talked about “th” when it sounds like [θ]? And today we are going to talk about th when it sounds like [ð]. That's why I was so excited when you said "these", the word has both sounds. It starts with [ð] and ends in [z].

- Doesn't it end with [s]?

- The letter but not the sound. Listen: "these". You do know that letter "s" has two sounds as well: [s] and [z], right?

- I guess I do, but I never actually thought about it until now. So [ð] and [z].

- Right, the difference in pronunciation is quite similar to the [θ] and [s] pair. In order to voice the sound [z] you place your tongue close to your teeth, and the tongue is tense so that it vibrates. And for [ð] you need to touch the teeth with the tip of your tongue, it might also be easier to put the tip of your tongue between your teeth first - [ð].

- [z]. [ð]. That's really easy after that [θ]-[s] class, professor. Now, listen "these". What if I say ‘these” [zi:z]? Does it change the meaning?

- Technically, people will understand you but it sounds as if you are talking about many letters "z". Let's say, “Tom's Zs are really weird”.

- I see.

- Frankly speaking, there aren't that many examples of [ð] vs [z]. And a couple of them will deal with letters, like Ts and teethe.

- I thought “teeth” ends with [θ].

- That's a different word. Teeth - the 32 things you have in your mouth end with sound [θ]. But there's also a verb that ends with the sound [ð] - to teethe (spelled with an “e” at the end) - which refers to the process of growing teeth when you speak about kids and their teeth.

- I never heard of it, to be honest.

- It's because you're not a mom whose baby is teething. By the way, except for Ts, there are two more words that sound the same “teas” - a plural form of tea “Our company provides a great variety of teas” and to tease - to make fun of someone “Brothers and sisters like teasing each other”.

- Wow, that's a lot.

- There's another example which has 5 words all together if you count the plural letter, by the way. And this verb is also not that popular “to seethe”. You boil water to brew tea, and the water is seething in the pot if you forget to turn it off.

- This one is with [ð], right?

- Yes. The ones with [z] are Cs - letters C, sees - to perceive with your eyes, like in “He sees the water is seething”, seas - huge basins with salty water “Can the water in seas seethe?”, and to seize - to grab someone “You cannot seize seething water”.

- Did you just make those sentences up?

- Yes, why? I think they sound cool :)

- But a bit impractical. How often do you yourself use the word “to seethe”?

- It's not about being practical, it's about pronouncing it right.

- And being practical.

- Ok, then. What about this? With vs whiz.

- I know “with” - it's like “I want a sandwich with ham”. Or “You are sitting here with me”. It has sound [ð] at the end. What about the other one “whiz” - with the sound [z] at the end?

- Whiz is someone really smart. Like “That kid is a whiz.

- Yeah, I think I heard someone saying “a whiz kid” once. I didn't get it though.

- Now you know what it means. It's really hard to mix those two up though, since you also pay attention to the context. Unless you say something like “He's with/ whiz kid”. So if you mispronounce, it's not really clear if he is very smart or if he came with a child. But in this case you'd also omit an article, which would help to figure out if “He is a whiz kid” or “He is with a kid”.

- I wouldn't pay attention to articles, to be honest.

- Which proves that I'm just with a kid, not a whiz kid. :)

- Haha. I never claimed to be one.


List of words:

  • bathebays, baize
  • breathebreeze
  • clothe – close
  • clothingclosing
  • lathelaze
  • lithelies 
  • loathelows
  • scythesize
  • seethesees, seize, seas
  • sheathe – she's 
  • soothesues
  • teethetease, teas, Ts
  • teethingteasing
  • thenzen
  • titheties
  • withwhiz