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definition - Heteronym (linguistics)

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Heteronym (linguistics)

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In linguistics, heteronyms (also known as heterophones) are words that are written identically but have different pronunciations and meanings. In other words, they are homographs that are not homophones. Thus, row (propel with oars) and row (argument) are heteronyms, but mean (intend) and mean (average) are not (since they are pronounced the same). Heteronym pronunciation may vary in vowel realisation, in stress pattern (see also Initial-stress-derived noun), or in other ways:

  1. Do you know what a buck does to does?
  2. I like to read. In fact, I read a book yesterday.
  3. Don't desert me here in the desert!
  4. With every number I read, my mind gets number and number.

Most heteronyms are doubles. Triple heteronyms are extremely rare; an example, sin, is listed below. Proper nouns can sometimes be heteronyms. For example, the final syllable of Oregon is pronounced like the word in by residents of that state in the USA, while in the name of the village of Oregon in Wisconsin, the final syllable is pronounced like the word on. There are also pairs which include both initialisms and regular words, e.g., US and us.[citation needed]

Heteronyms can also occur in non-alphabetic languages. For example, the Chinese character 行 can be pronounced háng, meaning "profession", or xíng, meaning "OK".

"Heterophone" literally just means "different sound", and this term is sometimes applied to words that are just pronounced differently, irrespective of their spelling. Such a definition would obviously include virtually every pair of words in the language, so "heterophone" in this sense is normally restricted to instances where there is some particular reason to highlight the different sound. For example, puns normally involve homophones, but in the case of heterophonic (or imperfect) puns, the two words sound different, and yet similar enough for one to suggest the other (for example, mouth and mouse).

Further examples

Examples of heteronyms in English
SpellingPronun.PoSMeaning
abuseəˈbjuːsn.improper treatment
əˈbjuːzv.to use improperly
advocateˈædvəkeɪtv.to argue for someone else
ˈædvəkɨtn.a person who speaks in support of something
agapeəˈɡeɪpadv.open wide
ˈæɡəpiːnounasexual, spiritual love
alternateˈɒltərnət ~ ælˈtɜrnətadj.other
ˈɒltərneɪtv.to take turns
appropriateəˈproʊpri.ətadj.suitable
əˈproʊpri.eɪtv.to set apart for
attributeˈætrɨbjuːtn.a characteristic
əˈtrɪbjuːtv.to associate ownership
axesˈæksiːzn.pl. of axis
ˈæksɨzn.pl. of axe
bassˈbeɪsn.low in pitch
ˈbæsn.a fish
blessedˈblɛsɨdadj.having divine aid
ˈblɛstv.past tense of bless
bowˈboʊn.a stringed weapon
ˈbaʊv.to bend in respect
n.the front of a boat or ship
buffetbəˈfeɪ ~ ˈbʊfeɪn.sideboard meal
ˈbʌfɨtv.to strike
closeˈkloʊzv.to shut
ˈkloʊsadj.nearby
compactkəmˈpæktv.to compress
ˈkɒmpæktadj.small
conductˈkɒndəktn.action
kənˈdʌktv.to lead
consolekənˈsoʊlv.provide comfort from grief
ˈkɒnsoʊln.control unit
contentˈkɒntɨntn.information
kənˈtɛntadj.satisfied
convictkənˈvɪktv.to find guilty
ˈkɒnvɪktn.one convicted
desertˈdɛzərtn.an arid region
dɨˈzɜrtv.to abandon
doesˈdoʊzn.pl. of doe
ˈdʌzv.form of do
ˈduːzn.one spelling of the plural of do as a noun[citation needed] - e.g. hair does
doveˈdʌvn.a bird
ˈdoʊvv.past tense of dive
entranceˈɛntrənsn.doorway
εnˈtrænsv.to delight
houseˈhaʊsn.a residential building
ˈhaʊzv.to place in residence
intimateˈɪntɨmeɪtv.to suggest
ˈɪntɨmətadj.very close
invalidɪnˈvælɨdadj.incorrect
ˈɪnvəlɨdn.a disabled person
laminateˈlæmɨneɪtv.to assemble from thin sheets glued together
ˈlæmɨnɨtn.material formed of thin sheets glued together
leadˈliːdv.to guide
ˈlɛdn.a metal
learnedˈlɜrnɨdadj.having much learning
ˈlɜrndv.past tense of learn
liveˈlɪvv.to be alive
ˈlaɪvadj.having life
minutemaɪˈnjuːtadj.small
ˈmɪnətn.unit of time
mopedˈmoʊpɛdn.a small motorcycle
ˈmoʊptv.past tense of mope
multiplyˈmʌltɨplaɪv.to increase
ˈmʌltɨpliadv.in multiple ways
numberˈnʌmbərn.a numeral
ˈnʌməradj.more numb
objectˈɒbdʒɨktn.a thing
əbˈdʒɛktv.to protest
polishˈpɒlɨʃv.to shine
ˈpoʊlɨʃadj.of, from, or native to Poland
presentprɨˈzɛntv.to reveal
ˈprɛzəntn.a gift
primerˈprɪmərn.Book that covers the basic elements of a subject
ˈpraɪmərn.An undercoat of paint
produceprɵˈdjuːsv.to make
ˈproʊdjuːsn.fruit and vegetables
projectˈprɒdʒɨktn.an undertaking
prɵˈdʒɛktv.to cast an image
puttingˈpʊtɪŋv.pr. part. of to put
ˈpʌtɪŋv.pr. part. of to putt
readˈriːdv.present tense
ˈrɛdv.past tense
rebelrɨˈbɛlv.to resist
ˈrɛbəln.one who rebels
recordˈrɛkərdn.physical information
rɨˈkɔrdv.to make a record
refuseˈrɛfjuːsn.garbage
rɨˈfjuːzv.to decline
resignrɨˈzaɪnv.to quit
riːˈsaɪnv.to sign again; re-sign
resumerɨˈzjuːmv.to start again
ˈrezjʊmeɪn.curriculum vitae
rowˈroʊn.; v.a line; to paddle a boat
ˈraʊn.an argument
sakeˈseɪkn.benefit
ˈsɑːkiːn.rice wine
sewerˈsjuːwərn.drainage pipes
ˈsoʊwərn.one who sews
showerˈʃaʊ.ərn.precipitation
ˈʃoʊ.ərn.one who shows
sinˈsɪnn.a moral error
ˈsaɪnn.abbrev. for sine
ˈsiːnn.Sumerian god of the moon
sowˈsoʊv.to plant seeds
ˈsaʊn.a female pig
subjectˈsʌbdʒɨktn.a topic
səbˈdʒɛktv.to cause to undergo
tearˈtɪərn.liquid produced by crying
ˈtɛərv.to separate
wickedˈwɪkɨdadj.bad, evil
ˈwɪktv.past tense of wick (e.g. to wick away some liquid)
windˈwɪndn.air movement
ˈwaɪndv.to tighten a spring
woundˈwaʊndv.past tense of wind
ˈwuːndn.an injury

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