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Why is it "pronunciation" and not "pronounciation"?


Generally speaking, when adding a suffix to a word in English, while the last letter(s) may undergo changes to accommodate the addition, the rest of the word is left unchanged. As examples in that sentence alone – general/generally, speak/speaking, add/adding/addition, change/changes/unchanged.

The only exception off the top of my head is the word pronounce. Nearly all of its variations — pronouncing, pronounced, pronounceable, pronouncement — all maintain the spelling of the word, save for the final e. However, one of its noun forms is pronunciation, where the central ⟨ou⟩ vowel is swapped out for a ⟨u⟩. Is there a historical reason why specifically the word pronunciation has its central vowel changed, among all of the forms of the word pronounce? Are there any other words in English which exhibit this phenomenon for the same reason?

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1 comment

Other English words from Latin nuntio follow the same pattern: renounce, renunciation; announce, Annunciation. ‭msh210‭ about 1 month ago

2 answers


A quick search gives a regular pattern in the form of trisyllabic laxing

Trisyllabic laxing, or trisyllabic shortening, is any of three processes in English in which tense vowels (long vowels or diphthongs) become lax (short monophthongs) if they are followed by two syllables the first of which is unstressed.

Pronounce -> pronunciation is one of the examples given in the article.


That's what I would say. But why the spelling changed? It could easily have been "pronounciation" with the new pronunciation caused by Trisyllabic Laxing. Why did the O get removed? ‭DecapitatedSoul‭ about 1 month ago

@DecapitatedSoul normally, you want the spelling of words to match their pronunciation. ‭Moshi‭ about 1 month ago

The spelling never changed. People pronounced it as pronunciation, so people spelled it that way. ‭Moshi‭ about 1 month ago


Moshi has explained it excellently. In fact, Trisyllabic Laxing is the reason it happened. I'm going to explain it from another point of view.

Pronounce is stressed on the second syllable. When the suffix -tion is appended to it, the primary stress moves to the syllable prior to the suffix -tion.
Whenever a word ends with -tion, it's usually stressed on the penultimate.

The [aʊ] diphthong that you hear in the word 'pronounce' has a systematic relationship with the [ʌ] vowel (as in the word 'strut'). It's also explained in Trisyllabic Laxing.

When we add syllables, the vowels get laxed (get shortened) and the [aʊ] is likely to change to the [ʌ] vowel.

Therefore, when we add the suffix -tion to the word 'pronounce', the primary stress moves to the penult and we get the [ʌ] vowel in the second syllable of pronuncation.

Other examples include annunciation, profundity, renunciation etc.

Why does the O get removed from the second syllable of 'pronunciation'?

Because we have the [ʌ] vowel in the second syllable and the digraph <ou> in modern English does not often represent the [ʌ] vowel. So we remove the O to match the spelling and pronunciation.

Hope it helps!


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