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[Facts] Joseph - how do you pronounce it? (and where are you from?)
I have a newborn son called Joseph, which my husband and I pronounce "JO-seff". However, I've noticed most other people pronounce it ”JO-zeff" We're in England, and I'm wondering now if "JO-seff" is more common in the US?
Tags:  pronunciation
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I think I pronounce it the same way as you, or close -- more like JO-siff. I'm in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. But I've definitely heard a lot of people say it JO-zeff or JO-ziff where I live, too.
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In America I usually hear JOE-siv.
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In my experience, JO-seff is the usual American pronunciation, but JO-zeff would not surprise me. I live in California.
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The normal English pronunciation of s between vowels is z. The same thing happens in words such as trousers, houses and housing (but not house), bowser, wowser, Aussie, etc.. There are some exceptions (e.g. buses) where the vowel is effectively unvoiced, and final s is also voiced to z following another voiced s and some some vowels (and in words where the s was originally not final but have been shortened so it is, such as rouse, carouse). As the value of s is positional, there is no z in native English words except for more recent onomatopoeic words such as buzz, and "reformed" spellings such as booze (from bouse, from the Middle English verb bousen, in which the s is voiced). Essentially if there is a voiced sound (most vowels and some consonants) before and after the s, the s is also voiced as IPA /z/, but if the following letter is not voiced, then it pronounced as IPA /s/.
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"The normal English pronunciation of /s/ between vowels and voiced consonants is /z/" is an overgeneralization. There is a rule that /s/ is voiced to /z/, without exception, when it marks the plural or 3rd-person singular of a verb and follows a vowel or a voiced sound (e.g. dogs, combs, runs, goes). But this rule can't be extended to other applications. Sometimes /s/ is voiced to /z/ between voiced sounds in other words, and sometimes it is not (e.g. basis, crisis, precise, usage, also, et al.) So your statement is not helpful in determining whether "Joseph" is or should be pronounced with /s/ or /z/.
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I've provided for those apparent exceptions — key vowels in those words are frequently pronounced as the unvoiced ə̥ˈ (or similar) forcing the s (or c pronounced as s) to be unvoiced as well, and without a final voiced vowel the s may (or may not) also remain unvoiced as well. Besides "normal" implies there are exceptions such as those anyway, and dialects where s is unvoiced where in others it would naturally be voiced (as noted many Americans often pronounce s as unvoiced where it would naturally be voiced and is in other English dialects). Another factor may be whether the following consonant is voiced or unvoiced. This may help explain divergent pronunciations of Joseph — the ph is unvoiced, and the e may also be unvoiced, so medial s could be either voiced if the e is voiced, but not if the e is unvoiced (as the ph is unvoiced).
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