English Pronunciation: The Role of Meaning

Pronunciation of words ending in "ate".

You can find our other related articles in this same directory. Among them are "Intonation in English: Expressions of Two Words", and "Intonation in English: The Noun and the Verb".

In these articles we saw that verbs of two syllables often have the stress fall on the second syllable, while the related noun has the stress on the first syllable.

These cases are examples of the effect that meaning has on INTONATION in English.

The present article shows how meaning has an affect on PRONUNCIATION, just as the previous articles dealt with INTONATION. In this case we will also learn a "rule".

Many native speakers do not know that there are "rules" of accent, stress, intonation, and pronunciation. English is not as crazy as we think. To know these "rules" can help you in building your vocabulary at the same time as you perfect your intonation and pronunciation. We write "rules" in quotes to indicate that there are always a few exceptions to such rules. They are not 100% accurate but they are a big help in most situations.

There are many words in English that end with the letters "ate". These words come from origins in the Latin language, and are very common in English. Words ending in "ate" are verbs, nouns, and adjectives.

Fortunately there is a "rule" that you can master. No matter if they are nouns, verbs, or adjectives, these words almost always have the accent on the "antepenultimate" syllable. That's a fancy way of saying "the syllable just before the next to the last syllable in the word". The difference is in the way the letters "ate" are pronounced.

Verbs ending in the letters "ate" pronounce the letter "a" with the "long a" sound (the name of the letter "a", the sound of the words "steak' and "make").

However, there are other words ending in "ate" that are not verbs. Related nouns or adjectives pronounce the letter "a" of the last syllable with the indefinite "schwa" sound (the sound of the "a" of the word "about", or the second "e" in the word "elephant"). Nouns and adjectives usually stress the antepenultimate (the one before the next-to-the-last) syllable,

For each word ending in "ate" in the following sentences, indicate that you realize the effect of meaning on pronunciation by clarifying the difference between the two uses of the same word ("same" meaning having the same spelling.)

The governor told his staff to separate the large document into separate categories

The professor said he would not elaborate on his elaborate explanation.

Their associate used to associate with many bankers.

I asked the carpenter to estimate the cost of the job. His estimate was low.

For the following words, indicate whether the word is a verb, noun or adjective, give a brief meaning of the word, and then observe how the letters "ate" are pronounced,

For the following words, indicate whether the word is a verb, noun or adjective, give a brief meaning of the word, and then observe how the vowel of the last syllable (that is, the letters "ate") are pronounced. Remember pronounce these words with the sound of the words "make", cake, etc. Nouns and Adjectives pronounce the vowel with the indeterminate sound, the schwa.

You can write me at the address given in the author's box if you want the results or if you have any questions.

deliberate - Adjective: on purpose, intended - schwa
deliberate - Verb: think seriously - "long a"
moderate - Adjective:, not extreme - schwa
moderate - Verb: To manage or control - "long a"



Frank Gerace Ph.D teaches English in New York. He helps with accent reduction and the American English accent at http://www.GoodAccent.com. He offers resources to Hispanic learners of English at http://www.InglesParaLatinos.com. He directs students to htttp://www.GoodAccent.com/accentbooks.htm

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