French phonology

This article is part of the series on: French language
This box:     [ edit]


French phonology displays variation due to regional dialects. This article aims at displaying a complete overview of French normal and possible phonemes and their most common allophones.

Vowels

Front Central Back
NRRNRR
Close iyu
Close-mid eøəo
Open-mid ɛ ɛ: ɛ̃œ (œ̃)ɔ ɔ̃
Open a(ɑ) ɑ̃


Stress falls on the final syllable of a phrase unless that syllable has schwa as its vowel, in which case the penultimate vowel is stressed.[1]

Oral vowels

IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
isisi"if"This vowel is normally short and tense unlike the Received Pronunciation vowel in meet (which is long) and if (which is the lax [ɪ]). Quebec French and some varieties of Belgian French have the lax vowel [ɪ] when it is short and in a closed syllable.1
ysysu"known"The same vowel as [i], but rounded. Quebec French and some varieties of Belgian French have the lax vowel [ʏ] when it is short and in a closed syllable.1
ususous"under"Similar to the English vowel in the word shoot. Quebec French and some varieties of Belgian French have the lax vowel [ʊ] when it is short and in a closed syllable.1
epʁepré"meadow"In many regions of France, mostly in the South (Meridional French), this vowel and [ɛ] are allophones. In other dialects, it is a different phoneme: Parisian French, for example, clearly oppose the two phonemes at word endings /tɛ/ (taie, "pillowcase") and /te/ (thé, "tea"). However, the distinction tends to disappear in non-final syllables, where the vowels often follow the distribution, similar to Spanish, of having [e] in open syllables and [ɛ] in closed ones. In careful speech, a distinction even within words is sometimes maintained, as in maison [mɛzɔ̃] "house", méson [mezɔ̃] "meson" (elementary particle), and assimilation to a following syllable may be resisted, for example blesser "injure" pronounced [blɛse] instead of the more common [blese].
øceux"these"This vowel and [œ] are almost allophones: usually [ø] is found in open syllables and [œ] in closed ones, except that only [ø] is found before [z] in words like chanteuse [ʃɑ̃tø:z]. The few minimal pairs include jeune [ʒœn] ("young") and jeûne [ʒø:n] ("a fast"), but these have merged in some European dialects.
ososot"silly"This vowel merges with [ɔ] in some dialects, most typically in southeastern France, subject to an allophonic distribution that produces [o] in word-final open syllables and [ɔ] in all others. For example: photocopie /fɔ.tɔ.kɔ.pi/, photo /fɔ.to/. However, /o/ appears even in closed syllables in some dialects, including Parisian and Quebec French, usually corresponding to the spelling "eau", "au" or "ô", although this often depends on the word: Paul, for example, is pronounced [pɔl], and the corresponding girls' name Paule is [poːl]. In most dialects, only /o/, never [ɔ], appears in word-final open syllables. Some, however, have a phonemic distinction exemplified by the pair peau [po], pot [pɔ].
ɛpʁɛprès"near"In some positions and in some dialects, this has merged with [e]; see above.
ɛ:mɛ:tʁmaître"master"Compare mettre [mɛtʁ] "put". This vowel has been virtually supplanted in the last century in European French by /ɛ/. In Quebec French a vowel transcribed [ɜ] has developed as the phonemic evolution of /ɛː/ and as the allophone of /ɛ/ before /ʒ, ʁ, z/, most noticeably in word-final position, e.g., maître [mɜːtʁ]. Before v, there is a phonemic contrast between intrinsically long /ɜ/ as in rêve [ʁɜ:v] "dream" and /ɛ/ lengthened only by the presence of the vowel-lengthening consonant v as in grève [gʁɛ:v].
œsœːʁsœur"sister"In some positions and in some dialects, this has merged with [ø]; see above.
ɔsɔːʁsort"fate"In some positions and in some dialects, this has merged with [o]; see above.
apatpatte"leg" (of an animal)In many European French dialects, this vowel has acquired a more central position owing to a merger with /ɑ/, but other dialects have kept these vowels separate.
ɑpɑːtpâte"dough"This vowel has been lost in many dialects of French through a merger with /a/, but is preserved in other dialects, most notably in Quebec French and Swiss French, and was prevalent in Parisian French until the 1970s.
əce"this"This phoneme has several names, including "e caduc" ("decrepit e") and "e muet" ("mute e"). Now being more or less labialized in European French, it is closer to [œ] than to an English [ə], but remains unrounded in Quebec. It is always dropped ("muet") before another vowel (un(e) âme [ynɑːm]), and usually when following a single consonant (rapp(e)ler [ʁaple]). On the other hand, it is usually pronounced when its omission would create a cluster of three consonants or more (gredin [gʁədɛ̃], une porte [ynpɔʁt], une porte fermée [ynpɔʁtəfɛʁme]).
  1. This laxing of the high vowels /i/, /u/ and /y/, in the specified context is compulsory in stressed syllables, e.g. lutte [lʏt], but it is optional in unstressed syllables, e.g., vulgaire can be [vʏlgɛːʁ] or [vylgɛːʁ]. The lax allophone of a high vowel may also appear in open syllables by assimilation to a lax vowel in a following syllable, e.g., musique can be either [myzɪk] or [mʏzɪk]. The lax vowel may even be retained in derived words where the original stressed lax vowel has disappeared, e.g. musical can be [myzikal] or [mʏzikal]. Also, the lax allophone may arise optionally in open syllables through dissimilation as in toupie [tupi] or [tʊpi], especially in reduplicative forms such as pipi [pipi] or [pɪpi]. These phenomena are conditioned lexically and regionally. For example, for the word difficile, the expected pronunciation [dzifisɪl] is found throughout Quebec, but the alternative pronunciation [dzifɪsɪl] is characteristic of the Beauce region, while [dzɪfisɪl] is characteristic of Montreal French.[2]

Nasal vowels

IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
ɑ̃sɑ̃sans"without"The nasalized equivalent of the oral vowel [ɑ]. This vowel is frequently heard as [ã] in Quebec, particularly in open stressed syllables. Some dialects in Northern France have started to merge /ɑ̃/ and /ɔ̃/.
ɔ̃sɔ̃son"his, her, its" (m sg)The nasalized equivalent of the oral vowel [ɔ]. One of the most stable vowels, it has few known allophones. Often articulated as [õ] in European French.
ɛ̃sɛ̃saint"saint"The nasalized equivalent of the oral vowel [ɛ]. Many French speakers have merged [œ̃] and [ɛ̃]. This vowel is still separate from /œ̃/ in Quebec French, Belgian French, and Meridional French, and in some of these dialects it has the allophones [ẽ] and [ĩ]. In Parisian French, usually articulated as [æ̃].
œ̃bʁœ̃brun"brown"Many French people have merged [œ̃] and [ɛ̃]. This vowel is still separate from /ɛ̃/ in Quebec French, Belgian French, and Meridional French however, and has the allophone [ũ].

Vowel quantity

Certain dialects, notably Quebec French and Belgian French, make a distinction between long and short vowels, in final syllables only. The occurrence of long vowels can vary widely among dialects. Generally, the following vowels are long:
  • [ɑ], [o], and [ø], when followed by one or more consonants, e.g. base, [bɑːz]; flamme, [flɑːm]
  • other vowels followed by one of the voiced fricatives ([v z ʒ ʁ]), e.g. sœur, [sœːʁ]; brave, [braːv]
  • nasal vowels followed by one or more consonants, e.g. romance, [ʁɔmɑ̃ːs]; emprunte, [ɑ̃pʁœ̃ːt]
Other vowels are long due to compensatory lengthening: in syllables where a consonant in the syllable coda has been lost, the vowel becomes long. The overwhelming majority of these cases are due to the loss of [s]:
  • Old French /mɛstrə/ > Modern French /mɛːtr/ "maître" vs. /mɛtr/ "mettre"
  • Old French /bɛstə/ > Modern French /bɛːt/ "bête" vs. /bɛt/ "bette"

Consonants

IPA chart French consonants
Bilabial Labio-
dental
Dental1/
Alveolar
Palato-
alveolar
Palatal Labio-
palatal
Velar Labio-
velar
Uvular
Plosive p bt dk g
Nasal mnɲ4ŋ3
Fricative f   vs   zʃ   ʒʁ2
Approximantj6ɥ5w 5
Laterall(ʎ)6
Where symbols for consonants occur in pairs, the left represents the voiceless consonant and the right represents the voiced consonant.

Notes:
  1. The designation of /t/, /d/, and /n/ as dental has been disputed. See Dental consonant.
  2. The grapheme r allows a wide range of realizations in French. [ʀ], [ʁ], [r], [ɾ], and [χ] will all be recognized as "r", but most of them will be considered dialectal. For example, [ʀ] is considered typical of a Parisian accent, while [r] is sometimes found in southern France, less and less in the Montréal area and in Cajun French.
  3. The velar nasal is not a native phoneme of French, but occurs in loan words such as parking or camping. Many speakers (mostly old people and those who are not accustomed to this foreign sound) replace it with a prenasalized [ŋg] sequence. In Quebec French, /ɲ/ is pronounced [ŋ], so these loanwords rhyme with ligne and signe. The velar nasal is also heard in the accent of the city of Marseille after nasal vowels, e.g. malin, [malɛ̃ŋ].
  4. /ɲ/ is slowly disappearing in favor of a /nj/ sequence in some dialects
  5. [ɥ] and [w] in French are mostly allophones of [y] and [u] before a vowel. The only case where [w] contrasts with [u] is when there is a morphemic boundary, causing some forms of verbs ending in -oua ([ua] or [uɑ]) such as loua ("he rented") and noua ("he knotted, he tied") to contrast with words ending with the oi ([wa]) diphthong, such as loi ("law"), and noix ("nut").
  6. /ʎ/ has merged with /j/ in a number of dialects (including the standard). As with [ɥ] and [w], many instances of [j] in the syllable onset are underlyingly /i/.


IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning
ppopeau"skin"
bbɑ̃banc"bench"
ttytu"you" (singular)
ddudoux"soft"
kqueue"tail"
ggɛ̃gain"gain"


The consonants /ʁ ʒ v z/ cause automatic lengthening of the previous vowels. The consonant cluster /vʁ/ also has this property, whereas other clusters (even including /ʁv/) do not. While this is not phonemic in itself, it might cause vowels to change quality in dialects where short and long vowels are of different qualities.

See also

External links

Notes

1. ^ Schane (1968:131)
2. ^ Dumas (1991:94-99)

References

  • Dumas, Denis (1987), Nos Façons de Parler: les Prononciations en Français Québécois, ISBN 2-7605-0445-X
  • Schane, Sanford A (1968), French Phonology and Morphology, M.I.T. Press
French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
..... Click the link for more information.
Dialects of the French language are spoken in France and around the world. The francophones of France generally use Metropolitan French although some also use regional dialects or varieties such as Meridional French.
..... Click the link for more information.
French is a Romance language (meaning that it is descended from Latin) that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in Northern France.

The Roman invasion of Gaul


..... Click the link for more information.
French orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the French language. It is based on a combination of phonemic and historical principles. The spellings of many words are derived from Latin etymologies, which has resulted in a multitude of silent letters.
..... Click the link for more information.
émie s'eſt donc vûe contrainte à faire dans cette nouvelle Edition, à ſon orthographe, pluſieurs changemens qu'elle n'avoit point jugé à propos d'adopter, lorſqu'elle donna l'Edition précédente.
..... Click the link for more information.
Sylvius) is the first writer known to have used the Greek symbol in his writing (although he wrote in Latin).

Several grammarians of the French Renaissance attempted to prescribe a precise usage for the diacritic in their treatises on language.
..... Click the link for more information.
Liaison is the pronunciation of such a consonant immediately before a following vowel sound. For example, the letter s in the word les ("the") is generally silent, but it is pronounced /z/ in the combination les amis ("the friends").
..... Click the link for more information.
In French, elision refers to the suppression of a final unstressed vowel (usually [ə]) immediately before another word beginning with a vowel.
..... Click the link for more information.
French grammar refers to the grammar of the French language, which is similar to that of the other Romance languages.

French is a moderately inflected language.
..... Click the link for more information.
French verbs are a complex area of French grammar, with a conjugation scheme that allows for three finite moods (with anywhere from one to five synthetic tenses), three non-finite moods, three voices, and two aspects.
..... Click the link for more information.
Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Simple Future Present Imperfect Present Present
je parle parlai parlais parlerai parle parlasse parlerais

..... Click the link for more information.
    va travailler.
  • Tu es là ?
  • Elle a rougi.

The principle of the fixed stem

The stem normally stays fixed in the first two conjugations:
  • Parler : Je parlerais, tu parlas, qu'ils

..... Click the link for more information.
la chaise rouge » ("I broke the red chair"). Unlike the, the French definite article is also used with mass nouns and plural nouns with generic interpretation, and with abstract nouns. For example:
  • « J'aime le lait. » ("I like milk.

..... Click the link for more information.
French adverbs, like their English counterparts, are used to modify adjectives, other adverbs, and verbs or clauses. They do not display any inflection; that is, their form does not change to reflect their precise role, nor any characteristics of what they modify.
..... Click the link for more information.
French pronouns are inflected to indicate their role in the sentence (subject, direct object, and so on), as well as to reflect the person, gender, and number of their referents.
..... Click the link for more information.
The French personal pronouns (analogous to English I, me, you, and so on) reflect the person and number of their referent, and in the case of the third person, its gender as well (much like English's distinction between him and her
..... Click the link for more information.
Motto
"Égalité, Complémentarité, Solidarité"
Members and participants of La Francophonie. In addition to countries, Belgian and Canadian subdivisional memberships are also represented.

..... Click the link for more information.
International Phonetic Alphabet

Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The International
Phonetic Alphabet
History
Nonstandard symbols
Extended IPA
Naming conventions
IPA for English The
..... Click the link for more information.
Unicode is an industry standard allowing computers to consistently represent and manipulate text expressed in any of the world's writing systems. Developed in tandem with the Universal Character Set standard and published in book form as The Unicode Standard
..... Click the link for more information.
International Phonetic Alphabet

Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The International
Phonetic Alphabet
History
Nonstandard symbols
Extended IPA
Naming conventions
IPA for English The
..... Click the link for more information.
French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
..... Click the link for more information.
Phonology (Greek φωνή (phōnē), voice, sound + λόγος (lógos), word, speech, subject of discussion), is a subfield of linguistics which studies the sound system of a
..... Click the link for more information.


A dialect (from the Greek word διάλεκτος, dialektos) is a variety of a language characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers.
..... Click the link for more information.
phoneme is the smallest unit of speech that distinguishes meaning. Phonemes are not the physical segments themselves, but abstractions of them. An example of a phoneme would be the /t/ found in words like tip,
..... Click the link for more information.
In phonetics, an allophone is one of several similar phones that belong to the same phoneme. A phone is a sound that has a definite shape as a sound wave, while a phoneme is a basic group of sounds that can distinguish words (i.e.
..... Click the link for more information.

Near‑close
Close‑mid
Mid
Open‑mid
Near‑open
Open

..... Click the link for more information.

Near‑close
Close‑mid
Mid
Open‑mid
Near‑open
Open

..... Click the link for more information.

Near‑close
Close‑mid
Mid
Open‑mid
Near‑open
Open

..... Click the link for more information.

Near‑close
Close‑mid
Mid
Open‑mid
Near‑open
Open

..... Click the link for more information.

Near‑close
Close‑mid
Mid
Open‑mid
Near‑open
Open

..... Click the link for more information.


This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia.org - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.