Heteronym (linguistics)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A heteronym (also known as a heterophone) is a word that is written identically but has a different pronunciation and meaning. 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. I seconded the motion that the official be seconded to another department.
  2. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  3. Do you know what a buck does to does?
  4. They were too close to the door to close it.
  5. Don't desert me here in the desert!
  6. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  7. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  8. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  9. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  10. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  11. I did not object to the object.
  12. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  13. He thought it was time to present the present.
  14. The farm was used to produce produce.
  15. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  16. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  17. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into the sewer.
  18. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  19. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  20. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  21. The weather was beginning to affect his affect.
  22. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  23. The bandage was wound around the wound.

Most heteronyms are doubles. Triple heteronyms are extremely rare; two examples, sin and mobile, are 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 United States, while in the name of the village of Oregon in Wisconsin, the final syllable is pronounced like the word on. Other examples include local pronunciations of Cairo, GA, Versailles, KY, and Milan, TN. There are also pairs which include both initialisms and regular words, e.g., US and us.

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).




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Heteronym (linguistics)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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