Conflict

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The noun 'a conflict' and the verb 'to conflict' are related, but have different pronunciations.

  • Both originally were to do with armed struggle, or fighting. Various figurative meanings developed:
    • any form of competition, struggle or disagreement
    • a person experiencing different feelings at the same time, such as fear and hunger, or love and dislike, can be said to have conflicting emotions, or 'an inner conflict'.
    • in psychology, a conflict can be a struggle between two fundamental motives
    • evidence can be said to conflict when different sources, or witnesses, give differ4ent versions of the fact. In history, for example, different manuscript copies of the dsame textr may givew different dates - conflicting ones.
    • in computing, a machine may freeze because of the conflicts of two (or more) different programs
    • In older literary tradition, stormy weather was sometimes described as 'the elements in conflict'. This is now a cliché.

The different pronunciations are a matter of stress.

  • The noun 'a conflict' has the stress on the first syllable: 'CON-flict', IPA: /ˈkɒn flɪkt/.
  • The verb 'to conflict' has the stress on the second syllable: 'kern-FLICT', IPA: /kə (or ɒ)n ˈflɪkt/.
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.