I'm aware that it's spellt with an X, however phonetically it's [ks]. According to the SSP, plosives should come after fricatives word-finally. Does the spelling with an x stop it from violating the SSP? I know English has special circumstances with s regarding the SSP but I thought that was just with [st] and [sp] word initially.

  • also, forgot to add, but does 'slabs' violate it? Dec 16 '20 at 1:20
  • 4
    Have you considered that by following your reasoning, almost every plural in English violates the principle?
    – LjL
    Dec 16 '20 at 2:44
  • Note that ax was standard for ask until about 1600 (though both forms existed in Old English, and the earlier root had -sk-). Also wasp, where both the -sp- and the -ps- form coexisted until recent times; in this case the Proto-Germanic had -ps-.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 16 '20 at 23:08

The codas of six and slabs, [ks] and [bz], are in the order "stop-fricative", and in the sequence of features associated with sonority, fricatives are usually said to be more sonorous than stops (it's not the other way around). However, a third option is that stops and fricatives have the same sonority. Admittedly, a sonority plateau is not in conformity with the ideal of rising sonority for onsets and falling sonority for codas, but it's better than a sonority reversal. Notice that English also has [sp, st, sk] onsets but not *[ps,ts,ks]. At the very least, these coda clusters constitute a plateau, so are "outside" the reasoning about sonority and it's relationship to segment ordering.

The coda cluster /bz/ is not actually parallel to /ks/, since /bz/ is always polymorphemic, and the suffixes /-d, -z/ break the general rules regarding possible codas in English.

  • -z breaking coda rules is super interesting - do you happen to know of any articles that cover this? Dec 16 '20 at 1:53
  • In the Slavic languages before about 12th century AD every syllable was to comply with the Law of Increasing Sonority aka Law of Open Syllables, so the order of sounds in a syllable could be only like this and it couldn't be violated under no circumstances: fricative - stop (plosive or affricate) - nasal or [v] - liquid - vowel. As you can see, stops were considered more sonorous than fricatives. That's just for reference.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 18 '20 at 12:38
  • English does have [ts] in onset position, though only in loan words. It’s frequently in free variation with [t] or [s] (tsetse fly, tsade, tsunami), but not always (tsimmis, Tsonga, tsuris). May 15 at 7:39
  • Re polymorphemic /bz/, the Homestar Runner character Bubs comes to mind :) May 16 at 5:23
  • @LukeSawczak You could argue that the /z/ at the end of Bubs is a separate morpheme, even that it’s the plural (or possessive) morpheme. It’s a common ending in diminutive names (Margaret > Mags, Barbara > Babs, Gary > Gaz, Philip > Flips/Pips, etc.), and to me it ‘feels’ like a separate morpheme, like -ie or -ock for general diminutives. Sep 12 at 10:08

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