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I have noticed that among the several words that have the termination -ciate (or derivatives of these) sometimes the pronunciation of the 'c' is /ʃ/ and sometimes /s/. That is, sometimes palatalization occurs (as in "attention" or "commission") but some other times it doesn't. For example:

/ʃ/: Emaciated, excruciating, officiate.

/s/: Pronunciation, enunciate, glaciated.

(according to the dictionaries I checked)

Is this arbitrary? Is there any pattern/rationale behind when it is one or the other? Or in other words, can one predict if palatalization occurs by looking at the part of the word preceding -ciate?

  • -ciate is not a suffix. -ate is etymonline.com/word/-ate#etymonline_v_26660 – user121863 Jul 26 at 18:53
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    Does this answer your question? Why is "appreciate" pronounced as though the "c" is an "sh"? – mankowitz Jul 26 at 19:02
  • @mankowitz It doesn't answer my question, my question is not about the fact that ci, si, ti palatalize. My question is about why there is palatalization for some of the words with my pattern while other words with the same pattern do not palatalize. And also about if there is a pattern maybe preceding the ciate that explains this phenomenon. Or in other words, if this can be mostly predicted without knowing the pronunciation a priori – Damaru Jul 26 at 19:22
  • It may very well be that there is no such a higher order pattern. In such a case this phenomenon of arbitrary non-palatalization is very odd. – Damaru Jul 26 at 19:28
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    No /ʃ/ sound in emaciated adjective formal UK /iˈmeɪ.si.eɪ.tɪd/ - pronunciation US UK /prəˌnʌn.siˈeɪ.ʃən/ – user121863 Jul 26 at 19:29
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Thanks to @PeterShor and @Decapitated Soul for the insightful comments.

It seems /ʃ/ is mostly pronounced after a vowel, and also /ʃ/ tends to be pronounced when the vowels in "ciat" are not stressed. So my conclusion is:

  • It seems there is some variation between speakers and between dictionaries, but using /ʃ/ after a vowel and /s/ after consonant seems to work (in the sense that there are people that pronounce it that way).

  • Using /ʃ/ if none of the vowels in "ciat" are stressed seems to work mostly but there is at least two counterexamples: enunciate and appreciation (the latter is probably like that because it inherits the pronunciation of appreciate). However, this second rule seems to extend better to other kinds of palatalization under different patterns. Like in "palatalization" or "attention" :)

A longer list of examples:

/ʃ/: associate, appreciate, appreciation, depreciate, disassociate, emaciated, excruciating, glaciated (this is part of the mentioned variation, some dictionaries say it's /ʃ/), glaciation, officiate, unappreciated.

/s/: denunciation, enunciate, pronunciation, renunciation.

| improve this answer | |
  • I just checked and for these words /ʃ/ was the only option given: excruciating officiate. Indeed, for the other words in the first list, both options were given as valid. – Damaru Jul 27 at 16:17
  • I searched that in LPD, yes – Damaru Jul 27 at 17:57

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