There are two different pronunciations for this suffix. Learn when to use which one, and how to make the suffix unstressed.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the pronunciation of the -SION ending.
This suffix is always unstressed. It begins with either the SH or the ZH sound followed by the schwa-N sound. The N is a syllabic consonant here. That means it absorbs the schwa. So, you don’t need to try to make a separate schwa sound. We just have sh-nn, shnn, or zh-nn, zhnn. It really should be very fast as an unstressed syllable. Shn, zhn. SH and ZH have the same mouth position. The first sound, sh, is unvoiced. That means there is just air, no sound from the vibration of the vocal cords. Sh. In the ZH sound, there is a sound from the vocal cords, zh, zh.
Let’s talk about the mouth position. You can see the lips are flaring out while the teeth remain together, sh, zh. The middle part of the tongue lifts to the top of the mouth, but doesn’t touch. The tip of the tongue is pulled back, so it doesn’t touch anything. Sh, zh. To move into the N sound, simply lift the tip of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth so the top, flat part of the tongue is touching. You can also relax the lips. Shn, zhn.
How do you know when it’s pronounced with the unvoiced sound, shn, and when with the voiced sound, zhn?
For example, decision, zhn, zhn. Occasion, zhn, zhn. Television, zhn, zhn. Version, zhn, zhn. Excursion, zhn, zhn. Immersion, zhn, zhn. Otherwise, it’s a SH sound. Discussion, shn, shn. Apprehension, shn, shn. Compulsion, shn, shn.
There are just a few exceptions I was able to find of words that are quite technical and uncommon. Stick with these rules and you should be ok. As you work with this suffix, try to make it really short compared to the stressed syllable. And remember, don’t try to make a vowel sound in this syllable. Zhn, version, shn, discussion.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.