Does anyone know what it's called when a word's pronunciation changes based on context? I am not talking about different people pronouncing the same word differently (i.e. caramel).

E.g. I say "I am doing REE-search." v.s. when I say "implications for further ruh-SEarch" (or reh-search).

I also would NEVER dream to switch them, as that sounds totally wrong to me.

Can anyone offer other words like this? Does anyone know what this phenomenon is called?

  • 1
    Funny I pronounce it RE-search no matter the context. I'd pronounce it that way in both your examples. But I do have a friend who alternates between "AFternoon" and "afterNOON"; she says it's to make the cadence of the word "fit" with the rest of the sentence. I can't remember the examples she gave.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 29, 2022 at 14:25
  • 1
    I linked this to part of speech pronunciation but I think it's actually just a dialect thing. Let me see if I can find another question that addresses that.
    – Laurel
    Aug 29, 2022 at 14:30
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    Research, in the context of schools, has undergone a new burst of change since English became a world language. It now exists in many Englishes as a count noun. I don't know how many times I've heard or read I'm doing a research on... from a student who's been taught to use it in a different context. In my English, research is strictly mass, so you hafta say I'm doing some research on ... And many Americans stress the first syllable of the verb and the second syllable of the noun. But many don't, too. Aug 29, 2022 at 14:34
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Yes, we do hear "a research". However, I only hear it from non-English speakers so I ignore it and wince.
    – Lambie
    Aug 29, 2022 at 15:43
  • 4
    Why wince? Be a sociolinguist and record it. BTW, here's a (presumably optimal, given the source, but certainly not complete) list of English two-syllable words with verb/noun stress differences. Note they don't tell you everything. Aug 29, 2022 at 16:38


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