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This is not restricted to s, it also happens for p, t, k, f resp. b, d, g, w (and I think v needs extra rules in the first place). The Wikipedia article states the rules between this switch between the lenis/fortis-variants in detail, and says this is a "typical phenomenon in German". To make things even more confusing, it works differently in different ...


1

In Standard High German (other than some southern dialects of German) [z] (voiced alveolar fricative) is an allophone of [s] (voiceless alveolar fricative) when it occurs in the onset of a syllable, that is you will never find a [s] in the beginning of a (phonological) word. Since this is a universal phonological „rule“ it is not necessary to encode this in ...



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