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I accent the first syllable in "finance", but I have a colleague who accents the second syllable. The debate in my office (which is strictly American) now falls between people who say accenting the second syllable is "the British way" and those who says it's the "hillbilly way".

I've seen this question (UK emphasis on the second syllable vs US emphasis on the first) that seems to indicate that "the British way" might be to accent the second syllable, and I saw that in this question too (First or second syllable accent for "detail"?).

Is there a regional distribution of these pronunciations? Is accenting the first syllable considered "American" and accenting the second syllable considered "British" or is it more nuanced than that? I only see the first pronunciation in MW. I think it's the first one at any rate, but dictionary.com appears to list both, with the version accented on the second syllable listed first.

  • All quality dictionaries carry out research into how English is actually used. The second dictionary you mention indicates that both pronunciations are used; MW seems to suggest that one is pretty much preferred where it carried out its research (it's an American dictionary). Try a few more to get more of a feel. 'Considered correct'? Where, on the BBC or in your office? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 5 '14 at 14:13
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    (From the UK) Personally I'd say stress is definitely more normally on the first syllable in "finance" here when it's used as a noun. The stress can move to the second syllable in longer forms like "financier" and perhaps that's why putting it on the second syllable when using "finance" as a verb doesn't sound so weird to me as it would on the noun. – Rupe Jun 5 '14 at 14:17
  • @EdwinAshworth 'Considered correct' wasn't really what I meant so I changed that. I'm really just curious if these pronunciations are used in different regions (e.g. Britain vs. USA) or if it's more complicated than that. – Michael A Jun 5 '14 at 14:21
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    It works the way record does: one way for the noun, another for the verb. – tchrist Jun 5 '14 at 14:22
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    @BenK Sorry, I don’t know “incorrect” means in a linguistic context, particularly from native speakers. – tchrist Jun 5 '14 at 14:27
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In standard English (and most dialects I can think of - in mine it does, anyway), many words have a feature where emphasis on the first syllable signifies a noun, while emphasis on the second syllable signifies a verb, such as in the words "record", "replay", "increase" and "permit" - this is a common feature of English as a whole, and it doesn't appear to be anything to do with regional variation.

In Linguistics, a word which is signified as a noun through having its first syllable emphasised (i.e., FInance) in order to convert it into a noun is known as an initial stress derived noun.

I am British (from Southwest rural) and I would only pronounce "finance" with emphasis on the second syllable if I were to use it as a verb, for example, "I'm going to finance this project". So this isn't a strictly British feature!

I hope this helps!

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Interesting. I too live in the South West of England, though originally from the West Midlands. I would put the emphasis on the first syllable even in the sentence, "I'm going to finance this project".

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