Consonants /f/ versus /z/, 76 pairs     [fenzen.html]

The /f/ sound is spelled with <f> or <ff>, and <ph> in lymph. The /z/ sound is spelled <s> or <z>. Many pairs arise from contrasting a noun ending in /f/ with a plural noun. This includes a number of alphabet letter names, B's, L's, O's and Y's.

The contrast is between a voiceless labio-dental fricative and a voiced palato-alveolar fricative. Most languages operate with similar sounds as phonemes, so the contrast is not usually a problem.

Interesting pairs include:

define design
loofah loser
sheriff sherries

The mean density value is surprisingly low at 0.6%. The list makes 54 semantic distinctions, a loading of 71%.

baffle Basil 
bailiff baileys 
beef B's 
biff biz
brief breeze 
  briefing breezing 
  briefed breezed
buff buzz
  buffing buzzing
  buffed buzzed
buffer buzzer
  buffers buzzers
calf cars
chief cheese 
deaf Des 
define design
  defined designed
  defines designs
  defining designing
delf dells
elf L's 
far Tsar 
Fed Z
fee zee
fen Zen
feoff fees 
gulf gulls
hoof whose
if is
leaf leas
life lies 
loaf lows
loofah loser
  loofahs losers
lymph limbs 
muffle muzzle
  muffled muzzled
  muffles muzzles
  muffling muzzling
oaf O's 
off oz
phone zone
  phoned zoned
  phones zones
  phoning zoning
quiff quiz
raffle razzle
redefine redesign
  redefined redesigned
  redefines redesigns
  redefining redesigning
ref res
refine resign
  refined resigned
  refines resigns
  refining resigning
rife rise
roof rues
roof ruse
scarf scars
self cells 
serf sirs
shelf shells
sheriff sherries
staff stars
sylph sills 
tariff tarries
undefined undesigned
waif ways
wharf wars 
whiff whiz
wife Y's 
wife wise
  wifely wisely
wolf wools
woof woos

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, October 2010.