Stress and Meaning

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Residente Calle 13, Feb 22, 2006.

  1. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
    Hi everybody,

    I have four questions. In these four homographs, the stress marks meaning.

    PRO-duce = noun
    pro-DUCE = verb

    RE-fuse = noun
    re-FUSE = verb

    DIS-count = noun
    dis-COUNT = verb

    UP-set = noun
    up-SET = verb

    1) Is there a word for homographs pairs like these?

    2) Does this happen with other parts of speech i.e. stress marks the difference between an adjective and an adverb?

    3) It seems like when the stress in on the last syllable, it's a verb. Is that a consistent pattern in English?

    4) Can you think of more examples of words that differ in stress only?
  2. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    Interesting questions! I'll be curious to see the answers as well. ;)

  3. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
  4. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I can think of the following adjective:

    PER-fect = adjective
    per-FECT = verb

    and the following nouns which are also adjectives:

    AB-stract = noun/adjective
    ab-STRACT = verb

    PRE-sent = noun/adjective
    pre-SENT = verb

    I don't know what they might be called, though.
  5. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
    Apparently, heteronyms or homographs.

    Thanks for your examples. :)
  6. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I get the impression that the terms heteronym and homograph are broader that what you're looking for. I think a homograph is any word that has two distinct meanings, even though they're written the same, as in bank (finance) and bank (of a river), while a heteronym seems to be a homograph that has a different pronunciation for the different meanings, as in bass (fish) and bass (guitar). Your list is even more specific since it involves a shift in stress of dissyllabic words. Since a name doesn't seem to exist, maybe you should invent one. :cool:
  7. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
    This page talks about how those nouns are stress-derived. It doesn't say what to call the pairs.

    In case we can't come up with an existing term, I nominate heterotones!:D
  8. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  9. DaleC Senior Member

    The pattern "PRO-duce, pro-DUCE" is an unusual, special one in English. With one or two exceptions (such as the "perfect" pair found by Aupick) it only occurs with a few dozen word pairs. The base members of these pairs are two syllable verbs of Latin origin that consist of a root and a prefix. This of course also describes "per-FECT", but its mate is an adjective, not a noun. The pattern is not productive, which is jargon for, no new pairs can be added to the list. (It will be observed that if anybody ever does apply the pattern to a novel vocabulary item, it's a one time thing, it doesn't catch on in society.) That said, it is indeed true that the list is fairly large, several dozen.

    This being known, the answers to the questions are

    2, 4. No, except possibly for a literal few curiosities.

    1. I do not know of a linguists' term for this specific heteronymy. Google got just one hit for "noun/verb pairs differentiated by stress"
    and zero hits with five syntactic paraphrases of that phrase. Google got five hits for "noun verb stress pairs".
  10. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
    Thanks, Outsider.

    I think this is related to how we can tell, in speech, if it's a blackboard or a black board.

    I think perfect can be used as a noun:

    The perfect in Spanish can be very irregular.

    I think many nouns can play the adjective role and vice versa. I hope I'm not sounding too Ivy League by saying this.

    But going back to the original question, I wonder if we can't apply this rule to newly coined words.

    Well, if these are words then they would seem to be exceptions to that:

    upset, uplift, update.

    But if they are two words, then they belong with backup/back up except that they happen to be written as one word.

    I don't want to get into that issue at all :eek:

    Thanks for playing, Dale.
  11. DaleC Senior Member

    This is a very good correction.

    A statement also referring to the above three words. 'Upset' and 'uplift' are of course not newly coined. But 'update' is a valid suggestion because it's much newer (I assume) that all the other examples. Therefore, my claim that the stress shift is totally unproductive is therefore not 100 percent correct. But it is almost 100 percent correct, which is good enough for me. On rare occasions, somebody utters a new noun derived in this way, and it doesn't "take". I expect some of our members have had similar experiences: for example, uttering a word like 'CON-struct', and being seized with doubt as to whether it "is a word" (it is). Of key importance is that the mechanism is not even productive among all "old verbs". The initial stress nouns discount and dismount exist, but not disclose, insist, inspire, perspire, convince.

    This doesn't count because this is actually an adjective being used as a noun. Isn't it enough gratification that PER-fect exists, whether or not it's a noun strictly speaking? Note that this noun/verb pair arose in the opposite way from the other pairs: the verb is derived from the noun.

    I'm not sure phrasal verbs, like "back up", belong in the discussion. 1. The verb member of the pair has the stress on the particle, not on the root.
    2. The verb counterparts of these pairs are phrases (!).
    3. Their particle is a suffix, not a prefix.
    4. They contrast with the words you brought up in that perhaps the overwhelming majority of them do form nouns by shifting the stress. As already noted, most verbs consisting of a particle prefixed to a verb root do NOT form nouns by stress shift with no suffixation.

    "Too Ivy League"? "Thanks for playing"? These remarks come across as snide, but if they *are* meant that way, then they're so in-group, or else idiosyncratic, that how many people would get them? I attended an Ivy League college and I have no idea what "too Ivy League" might mean. I am disappointed that some people react this way after I take their questions seriously and spend time giving extended answers. I actually think it's nice that I overstate my case now and then. I think it would be dreary if nobody ever had something to teach me and if mistakes were made only by other people, never by me.
  12. Residente Calle 13 Senior Member

    New York City
    Too "Ivy League" is using a noun as an adjective. I think it was very nice of you to reply. Thanks for playing is my idiosyncratic way of saying thanks. I had no idea where you went to college.

    Thanks again.

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