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>> /s/  -> [T], [T-], where
>> [T]  -> Interdental fricative (this one is the most common by far)
>
>Really interdental? Your tongue sticks out a little beyond the bottom of
the upper front teeth??

Yes. _Definitely_ interdental. To varying degrees. Usually it just barely
sticks out, but sometimes (usually for emphasis) up to over a quarter of an
inch.

>If so, try retracting it so that the tongue tip is in
>contact with the inside lower edge of the teeth.  That, in my book, is a
>proper [T] = /T/ as in thick, thin etc., which in fact is what you describe
>next----

So perhaps instead of [T] and [T-], I should have used [T+] and [T]?
Actually, the later form (postdental) sounds more /s/-like to me than the
interdental form that I use more commonly (which is why I use it in /ts/).

>[s] can be pronounced in a variety of ways...

This is very interesting! So there is no single "right way" to do it?

> one of which was described by
>James W. His way, I think, is what we've been calling "apical s"...
>That's not the way I do it-- in my case, the tongue tip is
>against the upper inside surface of the _lower_ front teeth, with the
>friction produced between the blade of the tongue and the alv. ridge...

I think I like the later way better. The "apical s" sounds too similar
to /S/ for my taste (or I'm just doing it wrong), and seems a little more
difficult to make. This is probably because I'm used to having the tongue
closer to the teeth. Also, when I try putting my tongue tip behind the
teeth near the alveolar ridge it tends to slip downward. This "laminal s"
doesn't seem to do this as much IMO.

> (This is also the sound I make when hissing, e.g.
> imitating a snake. How would you imitate a snake??)

Interdentally.

>Hmm, the problem may be the gap between your teeth. Is it large?

No one's ever told me so, but I believe it probably is (see below).

>It could be that the gap in your teeth is allowing too much air to escape,
>so that it reduces the amount of friction you can produce in that area.
>Consequently your [s] has never been as "hissy" as it ought. And if, when
>you were young, nobody called attention to it (which includes teasing,
>unfortunately), you simply remained unaware of it and had no incentive to
>experiment with other ways of producing it.

This sounds very likely to me. I know that when I make an interdental
fricative, I can push quite a bit of air out from between my front teeth
(hence a hissing sound). And I can only think of one childhood memory where
a friend thought I made s's funny. He wanted to make sure, so he asked me
to say "uterus", which was a word I didn't want to say at that age. :) I
had mostly forgotten about that incident until recently, and I certainly
had no incentive to ever experiment with other ways.

I think another big problem, though, is not with my tongue or mouth, but
with my ears and brain. If I were to attempt to pronounce /T/ correctly, it
would sound like an /s/ to me. So if I comment on, for example, the size of
a juicy piece of meat, it will sound to me as if I were saying "That's one
sick* piece of meat!". Obviously, I wouldn't want to say that! To my
ears, /T/ just sounds like it should be an affricate. Wierd, huh?

Thanks,
~Caleb