Q&A: Pronunciation vs Enunciation vs Elocution

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Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, we’re charged up as we discuss pronunciation…

Q: Hi there – I have a question for you.
A: You’ve come to the right place
Q: What’s the difference between “pronunciation”, “enunciation” and “elocution”? Isn’t that last one when you stick a fork into a power socket?
A: No, that’s electrocution. Very different.
Q: Shocking.
A: Haha.
Q: So what’s the difference? I’m amped to find out.
A: Are you going to persist with electricity puns throughout this whole thing?
Q: I have no idea what you are talking about. Now, let’s switch on to the topic at hand…
A: Hmmm okay, so, let’s start with the first two. “Pronunciation” is simply the act of making sounds or articulating words correctly – the verb being to “pronounce”.
Q: Actually, while we’re on that, why isn’t it “proNOUNciation”?
A: Because, English.
Q: Fair enough.
A: Well, to elaborate, “pronounce” and “pronunciation” had slightly different upbringings – one via Old French and the other direct from Latin. From there it’s the usual semantic roulette.
Q: I played roulette once. Put it all on number 11.
A: And?
Q: Sorry, can’t remember the end of that story.
A: Right. Okay, so that’s pronunciation. Meanwhile, “enunciation” is similar, regarding articulating words – but it specifically relates to the clarity of the sound that you make.
Q: They both seem to be positively charged with similar roles.
A: And the puns are back.
Q: So, what about “elocution”? How does that fit into the grid?
A: Well, elocution sits separate to those other two.
Q: So it’s wired differently?
A: Yes, if you insist. It’s actually the study of pronunciation, grammar, style and tone.
Q: Completely different energy then.
A: Please stop.
Q: Okay, so can you provide an example of each so we can discharge this topic?
A: Sure. “The director – who was an expert in elocution – commented that while the actor’s enunciation was good, their pronunciation wasn’t correct for the American market.”
Q: Who was it? I bet it was Colin Firth or Emma Thompson. They’re rubbish at doing American accents.
A: Not sure. But clearly they didn’t deliver an electrifying performance.
Q: Oh nicely done. Lovely pun powerplay there.
A: You’re welcome. So, anything else?
Q: Just one more thing. What’s “diction”?
A: Well its main meaning refers to the selection of words or phrases by a writer or speaker – hence “dictionary”. But its secondary meaning is synonymous with “enunciation” – the clarity of speech.
Q: Nice. Okay, well that’s enough for me. I’m starting to black out here.
A: Don’t blow a fuse…

Do you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore this year? Email it to us today!


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