Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Initial Stress Derived Nouns: My New Fascination

Recently I was having conversation with a friend of mine when he wrote a sentence containing the line, “ ….the French protest interest groups.” Normally this happening in an irc channel I couldn't care less about how someone wrote a sentence
What struck me about this sentence was that the meaning of the sentence could be changed depending on how protest was perceived, if it was a noun then it had one meaning, if it was a verb then it had a completely different meaning. Being fascinated by this I did a quick Google search and found that they where called Initial-stress-derived nouns

Here are some:
Affect        Block          Bottle            Brush
Complex   Document    Exploit          Fart
Guide        Heat            Invite            Jail
Knock       Lick            Misprint        Name
Offer         Push            Quarter         Reprint
Sail           Taxi             Undercount   Visit
Wage        X-ray          Yell               Zeugma 

Then I came up with some sentences that could use these words to change their meanings.

Czech bear search party.
Soviet push blocks up Germans.

After reading around a bit more I found out that these where essential parts of the logical fallacy known as the amphiboly. Which occurs when a sentence can have a different meaning depending on how it's written. You usually see this with poor use of grammar but as shown above, is not limited to comas and loose use of pronouns.