Initial-stress-derived noun

From Academic Kids

Initial-stress-derivation is a phonological process in English, wherein verbs become nouns or adjectives when the stress is moved to the first syllable from a later one -- usually, but not always, the second. This is gradually becoming more standardized in some English dialects, but is not present in all, and the list of affected words differs from area to area. Perhaps 100 verb-noun (or adjective) pairs exist in total. Some examples are:

  • conflict.
"This conFLICTS with that." "There is a CONflict."
  • record.
"I reCORDed the results." "They kept a RECord."
  • permit.
"I will perMIT that." "I will grant a PERmit."

A more detailed, though incomplete list follows.

When the prefix "re-" is prepended to a monosyllabic word, and the word gains currency both as a noun and as a verb, it will probably fit into this pattern, although, as the following list makes clear, most words fitting this pattern do not match that description.

Many of these have first syllables that evolved from Latin prepositions, although again that does not account for all of them. See also list of Latin words with English derivatives.

When the stress is moved, the pronunciation, especially of vowels, often changes in other ways as well. Most common is the change of a vowel sound to a schwa when it becomes unstressed.

P/U dialect

There is a dialect in the United States referred to informally by linguists as P/U or police/umbrella because in that dialect these nouns (along with cigarette, insurance, and many others) are stressed on the first syllable.

List

absent - abstract - address - affect - affix - ally - attribute - combat - combine - compact - compost - compound - compress - commune - concert - conduct - confines - conflict - conscript - console - consort - construct - consult - content - contest - contract - contrast - converse - convert - convict - default - defect - desert - digest - discharge - dismount - entrance - escort - exploit - export - extract - finance - impact - impound - import - incense - incline - - increase - intercept - insert - insult - invite - object - overcount - overlay - overlook - perfect - permit - perfume - pervert - present - proceeds - produce - progress - project - protest - rebel - recall - recap - recess - record - redirect - redress - refund - refuse - regress - reject - relapse - remake - research - retake - retard - retract - subject - survey - suspect - transform - transplant - transect - transpose - transport - undercount - update - uplift - upset

Comments

In some cases the spelling changes when the accent moves to another syllable:

  • envelop/envelope
  • unite/unit

(in both cases, the verb precedes the slash and the noun follows it).

Some two-word phrases follow this pattern:

  • fall out
  • hand out (written as one word when a noun)
  • drop out (also written as a single word when a noun)
  • make up (sometimes hyphenated when a noun)
  • crack down (written as one word when a noun)

Some of these words have very different meanings depending on the part of speech. For instance, to combine is to put together, whereas a combine is a farm machine or a railway car.

Pronunciations vary geographically. Someone even proposed adding display to this list. Some words here may belong on this list according to pronunciations prevailing in some regions, but not according to those in others.

Perhaps transpose is used as a noun only by mathematicians; the transpose of a matrix is the result of the process of transposition of the matrix; the two-syllable noun and the four syllable noun differ in meaning in that one is the result and the other is the process. Similar remarks apply to transform; the process is transformation, the result of the process is the transform, as in Laplace transform, Fourier transform, etc.

A particulary interesting case is the word protest; as a noun it has the stress on the first syllable, but as a verb its meaning depends on stress: with the stress on the second syllable it means to raise a protest; on the first it means to participate in a protest. This appears to result from the derived noun being verbed.

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