4

I would like to know if the word excuse, with different pronunciations as a noun and a verb (homographs) follows some kind of phonological pattern of SoP conversion (in either direction)

The only similar words I can think of are close (verb /kloʊz/ vs adj./adv. /kloʊs/), use (verb /juz/ vs noun /jus/), and advice vs advise.

If it does follow a pattern, is it an exception to the nouns derived change of stress into inition position (e.g., record, present, protest, rebel, refuse, etc.) ?

Secondly, where can I find a list of such nouns that do not change the stress from verbs?

1
  • 1
    In AmE the accent is on the second syllable in both noun and verb, and the s is unvoiced in the noun and voiced in the verb.
    – TimR
    Dec 31, 2023 at 13:07

3 Answers 3

9

It is part of a pattern. Like the change-of-stress pattern for nouns and verbs, the pattern of voiced /z/ at the end of a verb and voiceless /s/ at the end of a noun isn't a consistent rule. It's just a correlation that exists in some words for etymological reasons, and has spread (somewhat unpredictably) to some other words by analogy.

I don't think it's necessarily useful to think of words that don't follow these patterns as 'exceptions', since neither pattern (stress shift or consonant change) is regular. Rather, the regular pattern for noun-verb conversion in English is for the pronunciation to stay the same.

A previous question was related to with the similar case of the word "use": Why are "using" and "user" pronounced with "s" as "z" while "use" just uses "s"?

The Oxford English Dictionary entry for excuse says the noun came to be pronounced with voiceless /s/ because of

the analogy of pairs of words like use, abuse verbs and nouns, advise and advice, etc., where the noun was in Old French masculine, and ended in ‑s.

I would add that there is also at least one native (that is, Germanic) English noun-verb pair that follows this pattern, house. Another potential example is the verb mouse (pointed out in a comment by tchrist).

Other related questions that mention some similar noun-verb pairs:

1
  • 2
    The pattern also applies to other noun–verb pairs ending in fricatives: wreath ~ wreathe, grief ~ grieve, etc. (I see this is mentioned in the first question you link to, but I think it warrants inclusion here as well.) Jan 1 at 16:32
6

The word close is also a noun, which can be pronounced both ways, depending on its meaning. From Cambridge Dictionary, we have

a road, usually with private houses, that vehicles can only enter from one end.

This meaning of the noun is pronounced the same as the adjective (with an unvoiced /s/).

And devise, device is yet another example, as is sheathe, sheath and bathe, bath.

So it seems that there is a pattern — the verb tends to be voiced and the noun unvoiced.

The reason for this pattern is that in Old English, /s/ and /z/ were the same phoneme, as were /f/ and /v/, and /θ/ and /ð/. They were voiced when they were between two vowels, and unvoiced at the ends of words. And verbs tended to have an inflectional ending tacked on, which would make the last consonant voiced; for example, in Old English, bath was bæð and to bathe was baþian. In Middle English, these three pairs of allophonic consonants became their own separate phonemes, and this pattern was generalized by analogy to a number of words that didn't come down to us from Old English, like excuse.

-1

Your link goes to the "Talk" page of Wikipedia. The article page is here.

I would like to know if the word excuse, with different pronunciations as a noun and a verb , follows some kind of phonological pattern of SoP conversion (in either direction).

Yes. In English

Excuse (of French origin) moved from the verb (c.1200) to the noun (c. 1374)

Contract (originally a noun from the Latin, c.1315) moved to the verb (c.1530)

Dates of record = OED.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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