The "s" Sound for European Portuguese Speakers

The second accent tip in the All About Accents European Portuguese accent series is about the “s” sound.  Sometimes, a sound can be difficult for speakers if it does not exist in their native language. The “s” does exist both in Portuguese and American English, but the rules for the sound in these two languages are a little different.  “s” exists in the phonetic repertoires (aka sound systems) of both languages, but Portuguese has a phonotactic constraint (sound rule) that “s” does not exist in the beginning of words when followed by another consonant.  “s” only exists in the beginning of words if followed by a vowel. Let’s go over some examples.

For example, the “s” sound does exist in the beginning of Portuguese words in the following examples.  In these examples, notice that “s” is followed by a vowel, and not by another consonant:







The next examples are English words where “s” in the beginning of the word is followed by another consonant (there are no Portuguese words that begin with “s” followed by another consonant):







How does no (“s” + consonant)  in the beginning of words affect the native Portuguese speakers’ accent in American English?  Speakers of a language without word initial “s” + consonant may inadvertently insert an extra vowel in front of the word before the word initial “s.”  This means that you may insert a vowel in the beginning of the word to say “estudy” instead of “study” or “esky” instead of “sky.”  This is an example about how language learners often imprint the sound rules of their native language to the language they are learning, and therefore affecting accent.  

The accent tip here is to be aware if you are placing a vowel in front of an “s” consonant cluster (a word with the “s” followed by a consonant).   For the practice exercises, I recommend you watch the video tutorial on “s,” which is linked to the post.  The video has a description and examples of practice exercises.

Enjoy speaking English with confidence and your language journey!

Leann Rhoades, M.S. CCC-SLP

Accent Coach/ Speech Language Pathologist

All About Accents



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