heteronym, homograph

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Encolpius, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    This is a very inetersting phenomenon we all know from the English language.


    I wonder if you can find examples in your mother tongue as well, I cannot recall any word in Hungarian and I think that phenomenon does not work in Hungarian at all, but it might work in languages with no fixed stress (Russian?, Italian?). Thanks
  2. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    We don't have stress in French to start with :D But we have conjugations!
    But I am not sure this qualify as heteronyms.
    A quite well-known example:
    "Les poules du couvent couvent." (the hens of the convent are brooding)
    couvent = n, "ent" pronounced like "en"
    couvent = v, ent not pronounced.

    convergent (conjugated verb, "ent" not pronounced) / convergent (adj) ("ent" pronounced)
    divergent (conjugated verb, "ent" not pronounced) / divergent (adj) ("ent" pronounced)
    portions (conjugated verb, the "t" is pronounced "t") / portions (n, the t is pronounced "s")

    Wait, more examples on wikipedia:

    • Nous portions nos portions. (v / n)
    • Mes fils ont cassé mes fils. (n / n) → This is a good one I think: fils = son(s): the "s" is pronounced, not the "l" / fils = threads, the "l" is pronounced, not the "s".
    • Je vis ces vis. (v / n)
    • Cet homme est fier ; peut-on s'y fier ? (adj / n)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  3. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Swedish has a few of these as well, most originate from spelling conventions being ignored somewhere in the past.

    The reason English has so many is because they lack spelling conventions altogether...
  4. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    In Turkish, there are a few cases where this happens.

    1. The noun form and the negative imperative of a verb are written the same way but the stress is different.

    Below are a few examples thereabout, in which I showed the stresses with an acute accent, but normally we don't use any diacritics in this case:

    Yapmá = The act of doing
    Yápma = Don't do it!
    Araştırmá = The act of searching; Research
    Araştírma = Don't research!
    Konuşmá = The act of speaking; Speech
    Konúşma = Don't speak!

    2. When a noun or an adjective ends in a consonant, first person singular of verb to be and first person possessive forms are written the same, but the stress is on a differen syllable.
    (Again, the accents that appear in the examples are normally not used.)

    Öğretménim = I'm a teacher
    Öğretmením = My teacher
    Güzélim = I'm beautiful
    Güzelím = My beautiful... ; My dear...
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek heteronyms appear as a result of the convergence of pronunciation of ancient diphthongs with or [e] in the modern language:

    «Περνώ» [per'no] --> to pass, go through
    «Παίρνω» ['perno] --> to take, collect

    «Κλίνω» ['klino] --> to incline, conjugate
    «Κλείνω» ['klino] --> to close, shut

    «Παιδιά» [pe'ðʝa] --> neut. nom. pl. of neuter noun «παιδί» [pe'ði] (child)
    «Πεδία» [pe'ði.a] --> neut. nom. pl. of neuter noun «πεδίο» [pe'ði.o] (field)
    «Παιδεία» [pe'ði.a] --> education (fem.)

    «Άδεια» ['aðʝa] --> neut. nom. pl. of neuter adj. «άδειο» ['aðʝο] empty
    «Άδεια» ['aði.a] --> leave, license, permit (fem.)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  6. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello, can you write down 1-2 examples......I am interested...

    Oh, I haven't expect French having heteronyms. It is fantastic you found some examples!! Interesting..

    Hello Apmoy, I am afraid those examples of yours do not look like heteronyms...

    It DOES exist in Hungarian what really surprised me. But I had to use the searcher. I think only 1-2 examples in the whole language and I think most languages might belong to that group.
    - egyek 1. [eɟek = I should eat] 2. [eɟɟek] plural of "one"
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2012
  7. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Some apmoy's examples are in fact homonyms (klino/kleino, ...) but not all.


    I. The reflexive pronoun se (= se in Romance languages) is unstressed, the preposition se (= with) is stressed:

    Pere se se sestrou. = S/he scuffles (is scuffling) with (his/her) sister.

    II. The syllables di, ti and ni are pronounced with palatal d,t,n in the words of Czech (Slavic) origin but with non-palatal d,t,n in the foreign words:

    Examples (1. meaning of the Czech word pronounced with palatal d,t,n - 2. meaning of the foreign word pronounced with non-palatal d,t,n):

     nit = 1. thread - 2. nit, a unit (candela per square metre);
     divy = 1. wonders, miracles - 2. divas (pl. of diva - a female star);
     díván = 1. pass. part. of the verb dívati se - 2. دیوان a collection of Persian poems;
     tik = 1. sound of the clock - 2. tic disorder;
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  8. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Bibax, excellent examples in a language where heteronyms are so hard to find!!! I thought of foreign words as well, but could not recall any example.
  9. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    Many people consider Arabic as a very hard language because it depends on this phenomenon

    In Arabic script, short vowels are omitted and not written, so the same word can give you multiple meanings and pronunciations.

    All 3-letter words in Arabic are heteronyms


    the word كتب (k-t-b):
    كتب (kataba) = wrote
    كتب (koteba) = was written
    كتب (kotob) = books

    the word درس (d-r-s):
    درس (darasa) = studied
    درس (doresa) = was studied
    درس (dars) = lesson

    the word شهر (sh-h-r):
    شهر (shahara) = proclaimed
    شهر (shahr) = month

    the word مارس (m-a-r-s):
    مارس (maarasa) = exercise
    مارس (maares) = March [month]

    the word مصر (m-s-r):
    مصر (moserr) =
    مصر (misr) = Egypt

    also in Arabic the conjunction (and) is one letter (و) attached the next word:
    the word ورد (w-r-d):
    ورد (wa-radda) = and he ansewred
    ورد (ward) = flower
    ورد (warada) = was mentioned
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  10. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Yes, yes, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew...many many examples...I wonder if native speakers cannot make mistakes when facing that phenomenon. :confused:
  11. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)

    In Latin the vowel quantity is phonemic but not marked in the written text.

    malum = evil; mālum = apple;
    venī = come!; vēnī = I came;

    nitor/nītor; occido/occīdo; decido/decīdo; hic/hīc;

    In sing. ablative all a-stem nouns (like femina, tabula, poeta, ...) are pronounced with long a in the end (feminā, poetā, ...).

    Maybe Old Greek had also heteronyms of this kind as well.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  12. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Well, in Spanish there are a lot if I understood you correctly.

    Él dialo contigo sobre un diálogo sobre el cual yo no dialogo. (I just made it up)
    He talked with you about a dialogue about which I don't talk.

    Él no nada nada. He swims nothing at all.
    Nada= nothing
    Nada= 3rd person singular of 'nadar'.

    Same stress for both.

    La llama que está en la llama a la que llama lo llama (formal conjugation). (made it up)

    The llama that is in the flame to which you call is calling you.

    Same stress for all meanings.
  13. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    - /ɛn/ - one
    -/eːn/ - juniper

    - dåm /dɔm/ - they colloquial
    - dom /dʊm/ - judgement, decree
    - då:m /doːm/ - cathedral; cupola

    - /mɪn/ - my, mine (pron)
    - /miːn/ - air, look, facial expression
  14. Montesacro Senior Member

    There are lots of heteronyms in Italian.

    Some examples:
    pésca (fishing) - pèsca (peach)
    vénti (twenty) - vènti (winds)
    àncora (anchor) - ancóra (again, more, etc)
    vólto (face) - vòlto (I turn around, I turn over)
    prìncipi (princes) - princìpi (principles).

    One should bear in mind that accents are nearly always omitted, therefore these words are written exactly the same.
  15. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    Hmm, but the point is that they are spelt the same, have different meanings and are pronounced differently, right?
    So "nada, llama,..." don't work if I am not mistaken.
    I don't know if Spanish has such words actually if we consider that a written accent mark makes the word different.
  16. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    I see! Then, the only ones that work are the ones that the accent changes the meaning. Piso - pisó, cálculo, calculo, calculó, etc, etc.

    I find weird that Wikipedia doesn't have that article in Spanish and in almost any language for that matter.
  17. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    In Serbo-croatian you have: Gore gore gore gore (woods in the hill burn worse).

    In Hungarian you have: Hány az óra? Nem hány, már jóbb! (What's the time/Does the watch vomit? No, he feels better).

    In Spanish there's the complete sentence "¿No nada nada?= No, no traje traje. (Don't You swim at all? No, I didn' bring my suit) or the title of a TV soap: "La Familia Mata" (Family kills/Family Bush).
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  18. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    Maybe because you don't have that phenomenon, which must be great for text-to-speech software! :D

    Again, this doesn't work: they are supposed to be pronounced differently ;)
    What about Sebro-Croatian & Hungarian: are they pronounced the same as well?
    If so, this is off topic.
  19. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    The Hungarian word "hány" is a homonym, i.e. 1 word with 2 completely different meaning...

    They are also called homographs http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homografía
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2015
  20. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
    In Italian we've got some heteronyms:
    parlo I speak parlò = he/she spoke and many other verbs as well.
    pésca= fishing (closed e) and pèsca= peach (open e)
    àncora = anchor and ancòra = still
    accètta = he/she accepts and accétta =hatchet
    pène = penis and péne= pains
    foro = hole (closed o) and fòro forum/ court of justice
    botte = barrel (closed o) and bòtte (strokes)
    razza (rattsa) = race, breed razza (raddza) = ray
    and many others.
    All these words are written in the same way but they are pronounced differently.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  21. darush Senior Member

    Hi Encolpius,

    Due to accepting Arabic script by Iranians, Persian is full of heteronyms.
    In Persian script(modified version of Arabic one), consonants can wear three different vowels(æ,ɔ,ɛ)as small accents over or under them. these accents are usually omitted, giving birth to virtual heteronyms. it makes many difficulties, misreading and sometimes too funny mistakes!
    we are learned or at least, supposed to be learned to pronounce correctly, but a foreign word which is written in our script is always a new challenge...

    Here are some examples:

    feather and full
    head, secret and slippery
    stamp and love
    powder and rounded/spherical
    England can be pronounced as 'land of parasites!'
    Russia and ashamed (you see! how I'm playing with great powers :D)
    foal, sphere and butter
    late and convent
    Abrahamian(a last name) can be pronounced as 'cloudes are comming continusely!'
    Quebec and partridge
    trip and garlic
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  22. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi Encolpius,

    do the following count as heteronyms?

    «ψηλός, -λή, -λό» [psi'los psi'li psi'lo] (masc. fem. neut.) --> tall
    «ψιλός, -λή, -λό» [psi'los psi'li psi'lo] (masc. fem. neut.) --> thin, tenuous

    «νοίκι» ['nici] (neut.) --> rent (colloquialism)
    «νίκη» ['nici] (fem.) --> victory, win

    «κρητικός» [kriti'kos] (masc.) --> Cretan (person from Crete)
    «κριτικός» [kriti'kos] (masc. & fem.) --> critic, pundit

    «τείχος» ['tixos] (neut.) --> dividing wall, wall of a castle
    «τοίχος» ['tixos] (masc.) --> wall of a room, brick wall

    «έξι» ['eksi] (neut.) --> numeral six
    «έξη» ['eksi] (fem.) --> habbit, addiction

    «καρπός» [kar'pos] (masc.) --> wrist of hand
    «καρπός» [kar'pos] (masc.) --> nut/fruit of tree

    «καινός, -νή, -νό» [ce'nos ce'ni ce'no] (masc. fem. neut.) --> new
    «κενός, -νή, -νό» [ce'nos ce'ni ce'no] (masc. fem. neut.) --> empty, void

    «όρος» ['oros] (masc.) --> term/clause in a contract
    «όρος» ['oros] (neut.) --> mountain

    «τόνος» ['tonos] (masc.) --> tuna (fish)
    «τόνος» ['tonos] (masc.) --> metric tonne
  23. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Hi olaszinho.
    I don't think this is a good pair of heteronyms, because of the accent on parlò that is compulsory in the writing.
    But well done for having found so many pairs, in the other words listed by you the accent is not usually marked. (although àncora occasionaly marked)
    In IPA the Italian voiceless z is usually transcribed as /ts/.

    Right now I can only add:
    prìncipi=princes and princìpi=principles
    If you include loanwords:
    stage (pronounced as in English steidʒ) = stage and stage (pronounced as in French staʒ) = internship
    file (/file/) = queues and file (pron. as in English /fail/) = computer file
    bus (/bus/) = bus (transport mean) and bus (/bas/) = bus (computer component)
    Some people admit this difference:
    regìme = political regime, or regimen in maths/physics and règime (mechanics only) = regimen in mechanics, running speed
  24. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello Apmoy, I am afraid the list of words you have written belongs to homonyms.
    But don't give up, I am sure you'll find 1-2 examples of Greek heteronyms or homographs, maybe with Google searcher (?). :)
  25. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    It seems that Greek is similar to Czech and Hungarian in this respect. All three languages have partially etymological orthography. It means that there are plenty of pairs of words that are written differently (according to etymology) but pronounced the same way. However the true homographs are nearly non-existent. In Czech there are only a handful of foreign words that are accidentally spelled the same way like domestic words but the pronunciation is different. But Greek has its own alphabet. Maybe Old Greek would be more promising.
  26. Maroseika Moderator

    Russian has a giant number of omographs (thousands, I think) - as already assumed, due to the shifting stress. Many of such pairs are just different grammatical forms of one word (stressed vowel is underlined):

    вина - вина (wines - of wine).

    But they can also be quite different word:

    ворона - ворона (crow - of a raven)
    венец - венец (crown - Viennese)
    берегу - берегу ([on] the shore - protect)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  27. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    OK I followed yours and bibax's advice and I checked for heteronyms in Ancient Greek; I found these, I sure hope these words count (it's my third and final attempt, mind you ;))

    «ἕξ» (with rough breathing mark) hĕks (neut.) --> numeral six
    «ἐξ» ĕks --> preposition out, out of

    «ὅρος» (with rough breathing mark) 'hŏrŏs (masc.) --> term/clause of a contract
    «ὄρος» 'ŏrŏs (masc.) --> mountain

    «ὤ» ō --> exclamation of joy, surprise
    «ὥ» (with rough breathing mark) hō --> Doric version of Attic adv. «ὡς» hōs: like as, so that

    «ὤρα» 'ōră (fem) --> care, concern
    «ὥρα» (with rough breathing mark) 'hōră (fem.) --> hour, period, season

    «ἤ» ē --> disjunctive or
    «ἥ» (with rough breathing mark) hē --> fem. pronoun she

    «ἴ» ĭ --> Cypriot version of disjunctive «ἤ» ē: or
    «ἵ» (with rough breathing mark) hĭ --> alt. of the genitive «οὗ» hou, of masc. pronoun «ὅς» hŏs: he

    «οὐ» ou --> the negative of fact & statement
    «οὗ» (with rough breathing mark) hou --> genitive of masc. pronoun «ὅς» hŏs: he

    «ἔ» ĕ --> exclamation of pain: woe
    «ἕ» (with rough breathing mark) hĕ --> alt. version of «οὗ» hou, genitive of masc. pronoun «ὅς» hŏs: he
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  28. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    To narrow it down a little, one could say that the great majority of Swedish heteronyms are based on either the fact that the grapheme o can be pronounced both as [oː]/[ɔ] as well as [u:]/[ʊ] (the latter being the modern pronunciation, and the former the historical one that has lingered on), or that long final nasals aren't marked. The rest are due to the phenomenon of pitch accent (although these usually contain the same phonemes).
  29. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    salâm darush! don't you want to write your examples in Arabic script or in Romanized original Persian. Many would prefer it to the English words. mersi. :)
  30. darush Senior Member

    ^Szia Encolpius,

    of course! and:

    پر/par, por/: feather, full respectively
    سر /sar, serr, sor/: head, secret, slippery
    مهر /mohr, mehr/: stamp, love(kindness)
    گرد /gard, gerd/:
    powder, rounded/spherical
    انگلستان /engelestân, angalestân/: England, land of parasites(excuse me England!)
    روسیه /rusie, rusiah/: Russia, ashamed(literaly)
    کره /korre, kore, kare/: foal, sphere, butter
    دیر /diir, deyr/: late, convent
    کبک /kebek, kabk/: Quebec, partridge
    ابراهیمیان /ebrâhiminâ, abrâ hey miân/:Abrahamian(a surname), clouds are...

    and here is a saying attributed to on of Persia premiers:

    آسیابانا، ارزن آمد نخود آمد، ماش آوردیم گندمش ده که برنج است

    it seems to be: You miller, millet came, chickpea came, we brought mungbean, gave it wheat because tha's rice!
    but in fact is: You miller, if you received a woman, she didn't come herself, I've sent her. give her wheat because she is feeling uneasy(suffering hunger).
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  31. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In present-day written Tagalog, I don't think syllable stress or word-final glottal stops are marked, even though both are contrastive.

    As a result, there are at least a few homographic pairs in which a recent loanword contrasts with an older term on the basis of stress or glottalization:

    bata (stress on the first vowel, final glottal stop) "child"
    bata (stress on the first vowel, no glottal stop) "robe" < Spanish bata

    hapon (initial stress) "afternoon"
    Hapon (stress on 2nd syll.) "Japan" < Sp. japón
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  32. Espectro... New Member

    At least one domestic Czech heteronym does exist, though: the verb "proudit". If it comes from the noun "proud", which means "stream", then the group "ou" is pronounced as a diphtong and the word means "to stream". However, if it's compounded of a prefix "pro" and a root "udit", then the vowels "o" and "u" are pronounced separately (by a glottal stop or at least as a hiatus) and the word means aprox. "to smoke through, a lot" (for example about meat). There might be some other heteronyms of this type, but at the moment I can't find any...
  33. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    ^Zdravím Espectro and welcome to the Forum. Your example is fantastic. Thanks.
  34. Ergulis Member

    I was wondering how many homographs, (such as lead in English) other languages have. We have several homophones in Czech tongue (být, bít), but I can only think of one homograph (panický).

    [Moderator's Note: Merged with a previous thread]
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
  35. 810senior

    810senior Senior Member

    Japanese has no homographs because the rules of spelling is uniform.
    We don't use any alphabets or additional rules in order to express same sounds but have just one single way.

    In contract, French has a lot of homographs in according to the difference of accent:
    Cote → côté[kote]:side, côte[ko:t]:rib, slobe, cote[kot]:rating
    Du → du:contraction of de+le(of+the), dû: past participle of devoir(to have to)
    Ferme → ferme[ferm]:a farm fermé[ferme]: past participle of fermer(to close) etc.
  36. Messquito

    Messquito Senior Member

    台灣台北 Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese - Taiwan 中文 Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語
    頭髮長長了tóu fà zhǎng cháng le The hair has grown long.
    zhǎng=to grow, cháng=long
    獨樂樂,不如眾樂樂 dú yùe lè ,bù rú zhòng yùe lè lit. The joy of music is better shared than kept to oneself.
    yùe=music, lè=joy
    春風風人 chūn fōng fòng rén lit. Spring breeze blowing upon people
    fōng=wind, fòng=(wind) to blow
    數數(字) shǔ shù zì Counting numbers
    shǔ=count/calculate, shù=numbers
    風扇扇風 fōng shàn shān fēng The fan fans
    shàn=fan, shān=to fan


    There are hundreds of heteronyms in Chinese and many of them possess not only two sounds; one of them have up to 8 sounds in China. So I just give you some examples where the two words happen to be together.
  37. Dymn Senior Member

    Catalan, Catalonia
    It's quite difficult to find heteronyms in Catalan. Most of them are based on open-close e and o differences:

    /sɔn/ 'sleep, sleepiness'
    /sun/ 'his, her, its'

    /bɛk/ 'I drink'
    /bek/ 'beak'

    /mɔk/ 'I move'
    /mok/ 'mucus, snot'

    /sow/ 'you (pl.) are'
    /sɔw/ 'salary'
  38. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    - kolen: coal
    - kool, kolen: cabbage (as in coleslaw)
    The o sounds used to be different but now they are the same.

    There might be some real ones, but not many, I suppose. I need some time to think.

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