Are there many words with double pronunciations in English? I know there are many in the chinese language. Is there a reason why there are many or not so many?

(EDIT: I mean words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently.)

  • 1
    Do you mean a) are there many homophones (words with the same pronunciation but different meaning)? Or b) are there many different pronunciations of the same word and meaning (regional dialects)? In both cases the answer is yes. – Weather Vane Sep 15 '18 at 23:22
  • After the question edit: Are you asking if there is a different meaning from the intonation as in Chinese? – Weather Vane Sep 15 '18 at 23:31
  • I don't mean intonation but I mean is there a reason why there are many different words that are spelled the same but mean something different. – Sweet_Cherry Sep 15 '18 at 23:33
  • 1
    As English is a phonetic language, it’s more common to have words that can be stressed differently (eg conVERSE = talk; CONverse = opposite) than to have wildly different pronunciations. There are some (eg route: root/rawt) pronounced a little differently, but few in the sense of the Chinese character pronounced xing (/sing/) to mean “walk” or hang (/hung/) to mean “bank”. – Lawrence Sep 15 '18 at 23:37
  • The reason for a word like set having so many different meanings is, perhaps, because English has constantly evolved over centuries, with input from diverse languages and cultures. – Weather Vane Sep 15 '18 at 23:38

Such words are 'strict homographs' (homographs but not homophones) -- words that are both homographs and homophones are homonyms. There are two reasons for their existence: 1) words that come from different sources (which may or may not start out being spelled the same). 2) words that represent the same lexeme but are given different accents to identify the part-of-speech.

Type 1 includes: bass, bow, lead, ... (there are not too many because they create ambiguity)

Type 2 includes: articulate, perfect, use, ... (there are many of these because they decrease ambiguity)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.