The Dominant Plural

The form of the dominant plural was {-s} and it established early in the fifteenth century. This form was not only used in Early Modern English, but is still used as the dominant plural form today. The changes of this plural form have undergone in structure and they derived from the Middle English changes. Nowadays we group the {-s}-ending in a three-way allomorphy:

- /-iz/ is used after sibilants (eg: e; place – places)

- /-s/ is used after voiceless consonants (eg.: heart – hearts)

- /-z/ is used after voiced non-sibilants (eg.: stamp – stamps)

What are voiceless consonants and voiced non-sibilants?

voiceless consonants: Sounds are voiceless when they are produced by a stop and then flow freely through the glottis and supraglottal cavities. Voiceless consonants are for example: [p], [t], [k], [s].

voiced non-sibilants: Sibilants are all consonants and they cause a hissing sound (eg.: [s]). Non-sibilants are labials, coronals and anteriors. In short, non-sibilants contain all classes of consonants but sibilants. For example: [p], [b], [m], [t], [n], [v], to name a few.

The three way grouping of {-s} is assumed to be established in the Early Modern English period quite early in the fifteenth century. To establish this modern pattern, two Middle English changes and one automatic tactical adjustment preceded. The two Middle English changes implied, (1) “The voicing of fricatives in the margins of weak syllables” and (2) “The deletion of certain weak vowels”.