Hey, DW, very cool website and way too sophisticated for my weenie grammar skills, but I do have a question. Is there a list somewhere of nouns and verbs which are spelled the same but the accent shifts to distinguish: like object and object, or decline and decline? Are there other parts of speech that do this? Joe Powell
I appreciate this question, in part because it gave me an excuse to compile the following list (which I’ve wondered about more than once). It’s from a database of 6100 high frequency words that have been analyzed and coded in several different ways. I filtered down to words that were coded as both noun and verb, which returned 2182 words. Then I eliminated any of those that weren’t stress pairs. One exception: The seven marked with asterisks are not stress pairs; they are noun/verb pairs that mark the different part of speech with a sound change, like the final consonants in house and mouth. The remaining 96 must or can mark the part of speech with the stress shift you’re interested in, though, as usual, things get a bit complicated and the following observations apply:
1. I say that many of them can mark the part of speech with a stress shift because there are variant accepted stress patterns. The nouns especially often have variant patterns, with the primary stress going either early or late. The verbs quite consistently go with late primary stresses. I believe verbs behave that way to maintain that iambic weak-strong-weak beat with the upcoming weak inflectional suffix. Secondary stress also complicates some of the cases.
2. Sometimes a late syllable that is unstressed in the noun takes on secondary stress in the verb, though the primary stress is the same in both noun and verb–exs. implement, ornament.
3. Sometimes you need a dictionary at least as big as Webster’s 3rd unabridged to find one member of the pair – exs. the verb forms of impulse and product with late stress.
4. Sometimes in addition to the part of speech shift, there is a semantic shift as well – exs. incense, refuse.
5. I’ve include perplex even though none of my dictionaries show the noun form. I’m thinking of that old book, The Pooh Perplex, in which I’m sure the stress is on the first syllable.
Notice that most of them are from Latin. Not sure what that means, but it must mean something.
Here’s the list: