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The word convert can be either a noun or a verb. The two forms have different pronunciations, chiefly differing in their stresses.

  • The verb 'to convert' has the stress on the second syllable, 'kern-VERT', IPA: /kən ˈvɜːrt/. It broadly means 'to change' - the use of something, or the religion of a person. There are figurative uses.
  • The noun 'a convert' has the stress on the first syllable: 'CON-vert', IPA: /ˈkɒn vɜrt/. This always has the meaning to do with religion: a convert is one who has changed faith "She was born Christian, but became a convert when she married a Muslim." Other meanings are figures of speech drawn from this meaning, in politics for example, or as the supporter of a sports team: "His father supported Manchester City, but United's success made him a convert."

You may want to see Converse for a similar note on a similar phenomenon.

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.