104: Pronouncing 'pronounce' and 'pronunciation'

Many patterns of pronunciation can be found through a quick study of these two words.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 104th episode.

Today's topic may surprise some of you. It may seem too elementary of a topic. Many of you may think that anyone who has listened to any number of the 102 episodes that have come before this one would be very much aware of how to say the words pronunciation and pronounce. Trust me, I wouldn't be doing this topic if it weren't still a common error among non-native speakers, even ones who have listened to many, many of my previous shows.

As a bonus, even if you already are already correctly saying pronounce and pronunciation, this show is full of little pronunciation patterns and tips that are always good to review.

First, let's examine the word pronounce. Pronounce is a two-syllable verb. Like most two-syllable verbs, it is stressed on the second syllable, pronounce. The vowel sound of the stressed syllable is spelled ou and is pronounced as the ow sound (ow sound). The letters ou are usually pronounced as ow sound, so there are no surprises here. Since the second syllable is stressed, the vowel sound of the first syllable is reduced to schwa. It is pronounced as a quick (schwa sound), pronounce. The word pronounce is a lovely example of English being phonetic, and following the rules of pronunciation.

There is a weird thing that I've heard a lot of non-native speakers do to the verb pronounce. They add the suffix -ate to it, creating *pronunciate. Pronunciate is not a word. Sorry. The -ate suffix can create adjectives, as in the words fortunate and delicate, or it can create verbs, such as the words celebrate and imitate. I hear people incorrectly trying to create a verb pronunciate of the word pronounce. It is used in sentences like, "How do I pronunciate the word algorithm?"

However, the word pronounce is already a verb. The sentence should be, "How so I pronounce the word algorithm?" If you are a user of the word pronunciate, it is time to toss it aside. The word pronounce is the only verb you need.

Now, let's examine the word pronunciation. Between the forums and emails sent directly to me, I can't even count the number of times I see people adopt the ou spelling of the word pronounce and apply it to the word pronunciation. It just isn't spelled that way. There is no ou in the noun form, pronunciation, p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-i-o-n.

The word pronunciation is rather long. It has five syllables, pro-nun-ci-a-tion. Luckily, the -tion suffix tells us which syllable receives the stress. Word that include -tion (as well as -sion) are stressed on the syllable before the -tion. That means, that in the word pronunciation, it is the tiny syllable that only contains the letter a that is stressed: pronunciation.

Because the word pronunciation has so many syllables, it isn't surprising that the word has a secondary stress in addition to the stressed a. The vowel sound of the main stress is said the loudest and for the most time, of any vowel sound in the word. Secondary stresses usually occur two syllable away from the main stress. In the word pronunciation that means that the nun syllable receives a secondary stress. Listen to all the syllables of the word: pro-nun-ci-a-tion. If you hadn't correctly spelled the word pronunciation, and added the ou where there should only be a u, it is likely that you were also say ing the word incorrectly as *pronounciation. Yes, I have heard many non-native speakers pronounce the word pronunciation as *pronounciation. I'll say them both again, first correctly, then incorrectly:



As always I'll link to the Pronuncian.com lessons that correspond to these patterns from this show's transcripts. You can find all of our transcripts by going to www.pronuncian.com/podcast.

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That's all for today everyone. Thanks for listening.

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