Concert

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The letters concert can belong to either of two word classes, and can be read in two different ways accordingly. The two, which are related etymologically, have different patterns of stress.

  • The noun 'a concert' has the stress on the first syllable - 'CON-sert' (IPA: /ˈkɒn sɜːrt/. Its basic meaning is 'togetherness', or 'harmony': the "Agreement of two or more persons or parties in a plan, design, or enterprise; union formed by such mutual agreement; accordance, harmony" (OED).
    • Its predominant use these days is 'a performance of music', 'a gig'; an event during which several hours of music may be played. A 'cats' concert' is not a compliment: literally, it is the noise of many cats yoweling together, while figuratively, it means musicians who are not in harmony. (For an ancient error, you may like to see consort.)
    • However, the phrase '[to act] in concert' means 'to co-operate' in any field.
    • In the nineteenth century, the Concert of Europe was a loose organization of the great powers of the time to keep the international peace.
    • A concert party was originally a group of musical performers. Business students should know that on the "Stock Market ... [it means] a number of parties buying shares in a company within the prescribed limits, with the intention of casting the votes thereby acquired as a single holding; (this practice is now illegal)" (OED).
  • The verb 'to concert', with its more commonly found -ed participle is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable: 'con-SERT'/'con-SERT-ed' (IPA: /kɒn ˈsɜːrt / kɒn ˈsɜːrt ɪd/). Its basic moaning is 'to plan, or act, together': it is rarely used in a musical sense. Politiciasns, generals or conspirators, etc, may 'concert a plan', but the more usual idiom is that they 'come to a concerted plan'.
  • To be disconcerted, along with its base form the verb disconcert, (both have the stress on the third syllable, 'dis-con-SERT/dis-con-SERT-ed', (IPA: /dis kɒn ˈsɜːrt / dis kɒn ˈsɜːrt ɪd/) means 'disarranged', or 'thrown out of harmony'. More commonly, it is used to mean 'to have one's self-possession shaken', or 'to be put out of harmony with oneself and one's relationship with one's context': "He was disconcerted when his wife argued against him in a public meeting".
=====Note=====
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:
He was con-VICT-ed (IPA: /kən ˈvɪkt ɪd/) of theft, and so became a CON vict (IPA: /ˈkɒn vɪkt/)" (AWE's rendition of IPA).
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.