We’re all used to the phenomenon of nouns becoming differentiated from their homographic verbs by stress movement: dis’pute becoming ‘dispute for instance, and that this is happening despite the best efforts of the Queen’s English Society and its supporters. Now I’ve twice, from different speakers, in separate television programmes, heard the opposite happening.

Jeremy Burckardt, Lecturer in Rural History at the University of Reading, and Richard Miles, who teaches ancient history at the University of Sydney, but from whose accent appears to me to be British, both used the noun confines with clear second syllable stress.

How long before we have to admit this to our pronunciation dictionaries?


  1. It takes more than two lecturers to make a revised dictionary entry. 🙂

  2. Was the first syllable vowel reduced to schwa?

  3. Martin – Yes, it was. Richard Miles is fronting the whole series of Ancient Worlds, and I’ve only watched the first one so far, so I shall be listening out for a repetition. I was inclined to believe it was a slip on his part, but when I also heard Jeremy Burckardt use the pronunciation in a totally different context, I thought it was noteworthy.

  4. You might like to ponder on this quote from the great OED

    In Shakespeare the plural is ˈconfines in senses 1, 2; the singular is always conˈfine, but this usually in the sense ‘confinement’ or ‘place of confinement’ (a sense also possible in the few instances of plural conˈfines)

  5. In the new 2010 online edition of OED confines in the sense ‘inhabitants of adjacent regions, neighbours’ is marked obsolete and there’s no pronunciation indicated. The 2nd entry for the noun, which is “mostly” pluralised and has various meanings, indicates stress on the first syllable.

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