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The word conduct can be either a noun or a verb. The two forms have different pronunciations, chiefly differing in their stresses; but they also have different shades of meaning.

  • The verb 'to conduct' has the stress on the second syllable, 'con-DUCT', IPA: /kə(or, more carefully ɒ)n ˈdʌkt/. It is derived from the Latin [con]ducÄ“re, 'to lead [together]', 'to unite', or 'to hire'. In English, the basic idea is 'to lead'.
    • A guide may conduct his clients to the place they have hired him to take them.
    • A general may conduct a successful campaign, or (more archaically) an army in a campaign.
    • The maestro of an orchestra usually conducts its performance of a piece of music.
    • Reflexively, the way in which one conducts oneself is 'how one behaves' - how one 'leads' one's own behaviour.
    • A physicist or engineer may conduct certain substances or forms of energy, a for example buildings are commonly fitted with lightning conductors, to lead the destructive energy of a lightning strike away; or an engineer may conduct water from one place to another where it is more wanted. (Pipes or channels for leading water are commonly called conduits.)
  • The (non-count) noun conduct has the stress on the first syllable: 'CON-duct', IPA: /ˈkɒn dʌkt/.
    • A safe-conduct was a guarantee of protection. A lord might offer a safe-conduct through his lands, by which traveller, group of travellers or even an army would be allowed to pass unharmed through that lord's lands.
    • The conduct of a business (or government, project etc) is the way in which it is carried out.
    • A person's conduct is their behaviour. Soldiers who do not misbehave are awarded good conduct badges, and of good conduct used to be expected in Personal references. In schools, pupils may have bad behaviour marked by a conduct-mark.
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) describes the most common: "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.