Contest - with a basic meaning of 'competition' or 'struggle' - can be either a noun or a (related) verb. These have different stress patterns.
- The noun 'a contest' has the stress on the first syllable, 'CON-test' (IPA: /ˈkɒn test/.
- The verb 'to contest' has the stress on the second syllable, 'kern-TEST', IPA: /kən ˈtest/.
- This pattern of shifting stress in words that look identical but belong to two separate word classes is quite common in English. Quirk (1985) (Appendix I.56 B) remarks: "When verbs of two syllables are converted into nouns, the stress is sometimes shifted from the second to the first syllable. The first syllable, typically a Latin prefix, often has a reduced vowel /ə/ in the verb but a full vowel in the noun:
- He was conˈvicted (IPA: /kən/ of theft, and so became a ˈconvict (IPA: /kɒn/."
- There follows a list of some 57 "words having end-stress as verbs but initial stress as nouns in Br[itish] E[nglish]." Note that "in Am[erican] E[nglish], many have initial stress as verbs also)". Quirk's list is the foundation of AWE's category:shift of stress. Additions have been made from, amongst others, Fowler, 1926-1996.