Annunciation vs. Enunciation

By Maeve Maddox

I read the following in an NPR (National Public Radio) transcript:

I’m articulate, which means that when it comes to annunciation and diction, I don’t even think of it ’cause I’m articulate. 

My first reaction was to smile at what I assumed was an amusing typo, perhaps the result of a mechanical voice transcription error. But then I decided to see if I could discover other examples of annunciation used in contexts calling for enunciation.

I found quite a few.

Not surprisingly, many of the errors occur on amateur sites and forums where correct spelling is not an issue:

He had a pretty heavy lisp, and the thing that was most pronounced was his over-annunciation of words so that his speech was very slow and drawn out.

Almost 5 [years old and] has annunciation issues. just started speech therapy 2x week 30 minutes each.

It’s just an overall annunciation issue, rather than a particular sound.

More surprising is finding the error in a professional context, on sites offering speech therapy and in documents posted on government sites:

[Our] speech therapists help adults who have problems understanding written or spoken words, feeding and swallowing, or speaking clearly with appropriate annunciation and tone.

Our daughter is six years old and is being teased at school for her annunciation. (A parental testimonial featured on a professional site’s landing page.)

While he has come a long way, he is still very behind in his pronunciation and annunciation. (Petition requesting insurance coverage for speech therapy)

The word annunciation means announcement. The word is closely associated with a particular announcement: the one made to Mary regarding the impending birth of Jesus:

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.–Luke 1:30-31, KJV.

This use of Annunciation is always capitalized:

One of the most famous paintings of the Annunciation is one attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio.

Enunciation, on the other hand, refers to the clear utterance of speech sounds:

If you’re looking to improve your child’s enunciation, it’s best to begin with an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. 

No vocal warm-up is complete without reciting a few enunciation exercises.

One way to keep the words apart is to pronounce the a in annunciation as a schwa sound and the e in enunciation as a long e sound, as in he.

Note: The schwa sounds like “uh.”

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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