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I have one true-or-false question.

The different stress used in a compound do not usually affect the meaning of the compound.

The example used in my book to illustrate why this statement is false is the word “red coat”. While I know it means a coat that is red when its second syllable is stressed, and it means a British soldier especially in America during the Revolutionary War when the first syllable is stressed, It seems to me the "fact" that it is a phrase not a compound word anymore when it means a coat that is red can't be the proof of the falsehood of the statement.

IN SUMMARY

  1. Is the example wrong in the sense that “red coat” which means a coat that is red is a noun phrase? If "red coat” which means a coat that is red is a compound word, then my question would be how to distinguish a phrase from an open compound.

  2. Is my understanding of this statement wrong? I suppose it’s false to say that the change of a stress affect the meaning of the compound word when there is no compound word.

  3. Is the statement wrong? If my understanding is right, and the example in my book is wrong, then I need other examples to illustrate the truth value of the statement. My question would be whether there are compound words whose meanings would be changed once there is a change in stress?

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  • Don't you have other examples? If not, how can you be confused? :)
    – Lambie
    Aug 25 at 15:26
  • @Lambie I am confused about three points. 1. Is the example wrong in the sense that “red coat” which means a coat that is red is a noun phrase? 2. Is my understanding of this statement wrong? I suppose it’s false to say that the change of a stress affect the meaning of the compound word if there is no compound word. 3. Is the statement wrong? If my understanding is right, and the example in my book is wrong, then I need other examples to illustrate the truth value of the statement.
    – user112563
    Aug 25 at 15:50
  • The problem with red coat is that the American Revolution ones were: Redcoats. :) When I speak and say: The Redcoats are coming., I hear no difference with: Ok, kids wear the red coats not the blue ones.
    – Lambie
    Aug 25 at 15:55
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    The wording of the quoted passage is poor. If taken literally, the "redcoat" example does not illustrate it. It would be better phrased: "Some compound nouns have fixed stress patterns, and to deviate gives a new meaning altogether"
    – gotube
    Aug 25 at 17:07
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    Since the document talks about stressed syllables, it must be referring to verbal speech. Verbally, you can’t automatically tell if it’s one word or two.
    – SegNerd
    Aug 25 at 17:18
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The table at the bottom of this page has more examples, including "hot dog", for which the stress affects the meaning.

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  • I think my main problem with this question is that I understand the stress could affect the meaning of a word, but I don’t see how it could affect the meaning of a compound when the change of a stress makes a compound word a noun phrase. I think what I am looking for is a polysemic compound word whose stressed syllable is different.
    – user112563
    Aug 26 at 1:05
  • I think if the stress on a word like 'tax-pay-er was switched to tax-'pay-er that would significantly change the meaning, in that the latter version would very specifically imply contrast between those who pay tax and those who receive State benefits (funded by the payer) and/or those who avoid paying their due taxes ("tax dodgers"). The standard stress pattern carries no such implication. Aug 26 at 11:43

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