There are phonological rules which govern how we say the plural forms of most English words. We all use these rules correctly without ever giving them a conscious thought when we speak. But for some reason (our knowledge of English spelling may be the culprit) the rules often forsake us when we cue. It might help if we rediscover those phonological rules we learned at "mother's knee" and apply them to our Cued Speech. There are three basic rules:

Rule 1: Words which in their singular form end in these five voiceless consonant sounds /p/,/t/, /k/, /f/, and the voiceless /th/ become plural with an added /s/ sound [handshape 3] in the same syllable. These examples will demonstrate how the rule works:

"lip" -- "lips" /lips/ [6-t,1-s,3-s]
"cape" -- "capes" /kayps/ [2-c,5-t,1-s,3-s]
"stamp" -- "stamps" /stamps/ [3-s,5-t,5-s,1-s,3-s]
"coat" -- "coats" /kohts/ [2-s/f,5-s,3-s]
"kite" -- "kites" /kiets/ [2-s,5-t,5-s,3-s]
"coast" -- "coasts" /kohsts/ [2-s/f,3-s,5-s,3-s]
"walk" -- "walks" /wawks/ [6-c,2-s,3-s]
"bake" -- "bakes" /bayks/ [4-c,5-t,2-s,3-s]
"picnic" -- "picnics" /pikniks/ [1-t,2-s,4-t,2-s,3-s]
"staff" -- "staffs" /stafs/ [3-s,5-t,5-s,3-s]
"laugh" -- "laughs" /lafs/ [6-t,5-s,3-s]
"fife" -- "fifes" /fiefs/ [5-s,5-t,5-s,3-s]
"breath" -- "breaths" /brexhs/ [4-s,3-c,7-s,3-s]
"length" -- "lengths" 'lengxhs/ [6-c,8-s,7-s,3-s]

Rule 2: Words which in their singular form end in these voiced consonant sounds /b/, /d/, /g/, /v/, the voiced /th/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /ng/, /r/ or end in vowel or diphthong sounds become plural with an added /z/ sound -- regardless of English spelling. A few examples of each will demonstrate how the rule works:

"bib" - "bibs" /bibz/ [4-t,4-s,2-s]
"globe" -- "globes" /glohbz/ [7-s,6-s/f,4-s,2-s]
"deed" -- "deeds" /deedz/ [1-m,1-s,2-s]
"ride" -- "rides" /riedz/ [3-s,5-t,1-s,2-s]
"leg" -- "legs" /legz/ [6-c,7-s,2-s]
"league" -- "leagues" /leegz/ [6-m,7-s,2-s]
"wave" -- "waves" /wayvz/ [6-c,5-t,2-s,2-s]
"scythe" -- "scythes" /siethz/ [3-s,5-t,2-s,2-s]
"doll" -- "dolls" [dawlz] [1-c,6-s,2-s]
"table" -- "tables" /teibulz/ [5-c,5-t,4-s/d,6-s,2-s]
"lamb" -- "lambs" /lamz/ [6-t,5-s,2-s]
"hen" -- "hens" /henz/ [3-c,4-s,2-s]
"song" -- "songs" /sawngz/ [3-c,8-s,2-s]
"car" -- "cars" /kahrz/ [2-s/f.3-s,2-s]
"care" -- "cares" /kerz/ [2-c,3-s,2-s]
"fly" -- "flies" /fliez/ [5-s,6-s,5-t,2-s]
"bee" -- "bees" /beez/ [4-m,2-s]
"toe" -- "toes" /tohz/ [5-s/f,2-s]
"idea" -- "ideas" /iediuz/ [5-s,5-t,1-t,5-s/d,2-s]

Rule 3: Words which in their singular form end in these other consonant sounds /s/, /z/, /sh/, /zh/, /ch/, and /j/ have a special plural ending which requires another syllable and which can either be said as /iz/ or /uz/. Decide which way you say this very weak-stressed syllable and cue accordingly. A few examples will demonstrate the rule:

"glass" -- "glasses" /glasiz/ [7-s,6-t,3-t,2-s] or /glasuz/
"face" -- "faces" /faysiz/ [5-c,5-t,3-t,2-s] or /faysuz/
"breeze" -- "breezes" /breeziz/ [4-s,3-m,2-t,2-s]
"phase" -- "phases" /fayziz/ [5-c,5-t,2-t,2-s]
"wish" -- "wishes" /wishiz/ [-6-t,6-t,2-s]
"garage" -- "garages" /gurahzhiz/ [7-s/d,3-/f,1-t,2-s]
"witch" -- "witches" /wichiz/ [6-t,8-t,2-s/]
"cage" -- "cages" /kayjiz/ [2-c,5-t,7-t,2-s]
"change" -- "changes"/chaynjiz/ [8-c,5-t,4-s,7-t,2-s]

Unfortunately there is no general rule which will help us with the irregular plurals of such words as "foot," "mouse," "woman," "ox," "wife," etc. -- you are on your own! But there is more good news. The same three rules above also apply to the sounds /s/ or /z/ which we add to the third-person-singular of verbs (present tense only). See if you can spot which rule applies in the examples below:

"I beg" -- "He begs" (Rule 2 definitely works because of the voiced /g/.]
"I kick" -- "She kicks" [Rule 1]
"I hurt" -- "It hurts" _______?
"I dash" -- "John dashes" _______?
"They lunch" -- "He lunches" ______?
"You fly" -- "Joe flies" _______?
"We guess" -- "Ella guesses" ______?

The same three rules even work for the possessives of singular nouns -- both common and proper. Can you figure out the phonological rule which applies to such possessive forms as "cat's," "dog's," "horse's," "Hugh's," "Bill's," "George's," or "fence's"? See the hints given below:

/kats/, /dawgz/, /hawrsiz/ [3-c,3-s,3-t-2-s], /Huez/, /Bilz/ /Jawrjiz/, /fensiz/

Don't worry about how we cue the possessive plurals of "cats'," "dogs'," etc., because we say them exactly the same way we say the plural forms above. For exceptions such as "oxen's," "mice's," and the like, consult a good dictionary. We get still another break with the possessive singular forms. Those pesky nouns with special plural forms follow the three rules for possessives when the intent is singular possession. See the following examples:

Singular   Irregular Plural  Regular Possessive
========   ================  ==================
"wife"     "wives"           "wife's"
"woman"    "women"           "woman'z"
"foot"     "feet"            "foot's"
"mouse"    "mice"            "mouse'iz"
Of course, there is a slight catch. Pronouns in English have special possessive forms such as "I - my," "you - your," "she -- her," "we -- our," and so on. You know them already, but do you know what to cue at the end of "hers," "ours," "yours," and "theirs"? The cue is going to be handshape 2-side.

The same three rules work for contractions with "is" in informal speech. "It is" becomes "It's," "He is" becomes "He'z." But be advised that "is" doesn't really contract at all with words which end in /s/, /z/, /sh/, /zh/, /ch/, and /j/, although we can show them as contracted on the printed page. If you are confused, let's demonstrate by cueing and saying "Lunch is ready" /Luhnchiz redi/, and then cueing and saying "Lunch's ready" /Luhnchiz redi/. Was there any difference? Probably not, unless you first cued /luhnchiz/ and then cued /luhnchuz/. The fact still stands that you must say two syllables instead of one in such examples -- so where is the spoken contraction? Nowhere! It only exists on the printed page.

As one parent group agreed during a recent workshop at Gallaudet, "Learning to cue really makes us think hard about what we've been taking for granted in our speech up 'til now." Amen to that!

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