Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Homophones and homographs in medical science

On p. 32 of the book you can see below, which is essentially about the origins and use of medical terms in English, the author Antonella Distante, who is Lecturer in Medical English at the Università "La Sapienza", Rome, writes as follows:

She claims that the words affect, flow, recall, relapse, burn, consent, transplant, implant and insert are all homophones and homographs when pronounced as nouns and verbs. Of course this is only true for flow, burn and consent, which keep the same pronunciation both when they're nouns and when they're verbs. For the rest, there's quite a lot of variation:

1) affect always has stress on the second syllable when it's a verb; the corresponding noun, on the other hand, is normally pronounced ˈaffect, though aˈffect is also sometimes to be heard in both GB and GA; 

2) recall (v.) is reˈcall both in GB and in GA, though ˈrecall is also sometimes possible in GA; recall (n.) is pronounced with the same stressing as the verb, although the variant ˈrecall is also heard in GB;

3) relapse is reˈlapse when a verb and a noun, though relapse (n.) can also be ˈrelapse in both GB and GA;

4) transplant is ˌtransˈplant when it's pronounced as a verb and ˈtransplant when it's a noun (In GA ˈtransplant is also sometimes to be heard for the verb.);

5) implant (n.) is always ˈimplant in GA and GB while the verb is mostly imˈplant (LPD also acknowledges ˈimplant for the verb in RP (= GB).);

6) insert (v.) is always inˈsert and the corresponding noun is ˈinsert. Also notice that the s in both the verb and noun can be pronounced either as s or z.  

Why don't some authors check with a good dictionary before offering incorrect information in their books? I wonder.


  1. Jack Windsor Lewis writes:


    I'm very surprised to see the /z/ forms of 'insert'. One has to be very careful about challenging the judgment of such a redoubtable authority as John Wells, but I feel intensely suspicious in this case. If I were recommending anyone, I shd be inclined to warn against adopting such an unusual form. It's not in harmony with what happens to other such sequences and so far I've found no other dictionary etc which confirms their existence in either British or American usage. I've no recollection of hearing any such form myself. Wells is rather sparing in the use of warnings like 'rarely'. He cd do with one here if this entry is not mistaken."