From Hull AWE
Confine belongs to two separate word classes, and the pronunciation of the two is different.
- In the verb ('to confine'), the stress falls on the second syllabel, 'kern-FINE', IPA: /kən ˈfaɪn/. It means 'to enclose [a person, etc] within limits', usually 'to imprison'.
- The noun is nearly always found in the plural, confines. The stress is on the first syllable: 'CON-fine', IPA: /ˈkɒn faɪn[z]/. It means 'the boundaries', and is used in such phrases as "He was held within the confines of the Tower of London".
- 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.