The way that you pronounce words.
Teaching grammar with enunciation. Sounds simple enough, right? And it is. And isn’t. We’re talking Inflection goes along with diction, therefore, inflection is everything. It also declares the difference between pronouncing the word correctly and so not.
This is when I go back to the syllable thing. And the prefix, root, and suffix thing. And then, if I’m still stumped, I do the dictionary thing. Because I HATE to mispronounce words. I feel really stupid when I realize I’ve been pronouncing something incorrectly. And I should. And so, frankly, should the folk who thought up some of those words! But that’s a copout and I know it.
Not all that long ago I realized that I had been pronouncing the word behemoth incorrectly, and yes, I was quite embarrassed about it. I kept thinking be-he-moth instead of be-hem-oth. And though I knew it in the back of my head I had been committing the cardinal sin of unstressed syllables.
Eh? You say? How’s that? A great way to have at least a good grasp of enunciation is to watch for those pesky unstressed syllables and make sure there aren’t two or more in a row. I know, that probably sounds more complicated than it has to but it’s not. Think about it. My be-he-moth left the he and the moth under-stressed. See, two unstressed syllables in a row.
The best way to check for pronunciation is aloud—you just might want to make sure you’re alone before practicing. You have probably already noticed that words that when pronouncing words that contain more than one syllable one of the syllables will be stressed. Pretty cool, huh?
Teachers, we challenge you to try this with your students. Examine small words and move onto longer ones and be sure and pull out the dictionary when in doubt. We’ll talk more about the whys and hows of enunciation in future blogs, but for now, think behemoth.