From Hull AWE
The word commune is pronounced differently according to how it is being used - which word class it belongs to.
- The noun 'a commune' has the stress on the first syllable: 'COM-youn', IPA: /ˈkɒm juːn/. (A commune can be one of: a group of people living together and sharing resources, in a fairly well-established way, like a kibbutz; or a small administrative district in France (the word is sometimes used as a translation of equivalent districts in other countries); or a left-wing unit of government whereby people own property in common. The Commune, in history, usually refers to one of two Communes in Paris (the local government of the city during the French Revolution, 1789=1794; or a revolutionary government in 1871, following French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. (This meaning is etymologically linked with Communism.)
- The verb 'to commune' has the stress on the second syllable: 'kerm YOUN', IPA: /kə (or ɒ)m ˈjuːn/. It means "To communicate intimately (with someone), esp[ecially] at a deep level of mental or spiritual engagement; to attain a state of rapport and spiritual unity with something." (OED). (It can also be etymologically connected with the Christian rite of communion: in some circles. 'to commune' means 'to take communion'.)
- This pattern of shifting stress in words that look identical but belong to two separate word classes is quite common in English. Quirk (1985) (Appendix I.56 B) remarks: "When verbs of two syllables are converted into nouns, the stress is sometimes shifted from the second to the first syllable. The first syllable, typically a Latin prefix, often has a reduced vowel /ə/ in the verb but a full vowel in the noun:
- There follows a list of some 57 "words having end-stress as verbs but initial stress as nouns in Br[itish] E[nglish]." Note that "in Am[erican] E[nglish], many have initial stress as verbs also". Quirk's list is the foundation of AWE's category:shift of stress. Additions have been made from, amongst others, Fowler, 1926-1996.