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French phonetics

[klak] = claque
[p] = porc OU port
[ble] = bl
[ato] = chteau
[tR] = train
[ miz] = chemise
[sol] = saule (note [sl] = le sol)
[ p] = Europe
[si] = sige
[vi] = vie
[m te] = monter
[vwa ty] = voiture
[lyt] = lutte
[ pa] = champagne

un enfant = [f]
fleur = [fl]
moi = [mwa]
le vin = [v]
deuxime = [dzjm]
le chocolat = [kla]
minuit = [mini]
le public = [pyblik]
un cambriolage = [kbijla]
danser = [dse]
vendredi = [vddi]
une heure = []
le monde = [md]
nous = [nu]
The French Phonetic Alphabet consists of 37 total
sounds.
The 12 French Vowels:
Vowels are sounds produced without any obstruction to
the air exiting the mouth. These are sometimes hard to
distinguish to the untrained ear, especially the phonemes
/y/ versus /u/ and // versus //.
(/IPA SYMBOL/ Common Spellings in Words French
Examples)
/i/ vie, dix, stylo
/e/ fe, t, danser, je partirai (future tense)
// sel, tte, treize, je partirais (conditional)
/a/ gars, ami, l
/y/ vu, jus, une, nu, tu, sucre (this sound does not exist
in English)
// le, veux, feu, ufs (this sound does not exist in
English)
// veulent, seul, professeur (this sound does not exist
in English)
/u/ doux, vous, o, nous
/o/ faux, mtro, bientt, beau
// homme, porc, sol, pomme
// bas, las, ptes
// le, samedi (Muted E) this is being replaced by
4 French Nasal Vowels:
Note: a tilde symbol (~) lies directly above each the
letter.(/IPA SYMBOL/ French Examples)
// gain, vin, pain, impatient
// lun, parfum, chacun
// long, monde, pont
// enfant, dans, lan, chambre
La voyelle // est typiquement prononce avec les
lvres plus arrondies que pour // MAIS chez les
Parisiens cette voyelle a t remplace par son
homologue non-arrondie //. Par ailleurs, cette voyelle,
//, a une frquence doccurrence trs faible en
franais. On la retrouve dans une vingtaine de mots
donc cela est pourquoi cette voyelle a tendance
disparatre au profit de son partenaire.
3 French Semi-Vowels:
A semi-vowel is produced by a rapid, upward movement
of the tongue during pronunciation.
(/IPA SYMBOL/ French Examples)
// huile, nuit, lui
/w/ oui, ouest, moi
/j/ yeux, fillette, dieu
French Consonants:
A consonant is a brutal sound caused by an obstruction
in the mouth during exhalation.
(/IPA SYMBOL/ French Examples)
/p/ plage, public
/b/ bon, btise, bateau
/t/ terre, sottise, th
/d/ dner, dimanche
/k/ cou, carreau, que
/g/ gare, gants, gallois
/f/ flic, pharmacie, foss
/v/ vous, avion
/l/ le, lait, mille
/s/ sac, soixante, cerise
/z/ zoo, visage, guise
// chat, chinois, short
// japonais, je, gnial
/m/ mler, magasin
/n/ nous, nez
// agneau, poignet (found in French only)
// camping, smoking (americanized phoneme)
/R/ rue, rouge (modified in French)

Prononciation du franais
Cette page contient des caractres spciaux ou non latins. Si certains caractres de cet article
saffichent mal (carrs vides, points dinterrogation), consultez la page daide Unicode.
La prononciation du franais indique comment les phonmes sont combins dans la langue
franaise. Cet article, qui fournit diverses informations sur la phonologie du franais, montre tous les
phonmes habituels et possibles de cette langue en incluant des varits rgionales du
franais du Qubec, de la Belgique et de la France.

Sommaire
[masquer]

1Caractristiques
2Inventaire phontique du franais
o 2.1Consonnes
o 2.2Voyelles
3Prononciation des graphmes
o 3.1Consonnes
o 3.2Voyelles
4Variantes dialectales
o 4.1En franais de France
o 4.2En franais qubcois
o 4.3En franais de Belgique
5Notes et rfrences
6Bibliographie
7Voir aussi
o 7.1Articles connexes
o 7.2Liens externes

Caractristiques[modifier | modifier le code]


Parmi les caractristiques phonologiques les plus remarquables de la prononciation de la langue
franaise, figurent le son r uvulaire, la prsence de voyelles nasales et lexistence de trois processus
affectant le son final des mots : 1. la liaison, instance spcifique de sandhi o la consonne finale des
mots nest prononce que si elle est suivie dun mot commenant par une voyelle ; 2. llision, o
certaines occurrences de // (schwa) sont lides ( la finale devant une voyelle initiale) 3.
lenchanement o la consonne finale dun mot et linitiale dun mot peuvent tre dplaces travers
la frontire syllabique :
Exemple des diffrents processus :

crit : On a laiss la fentre ouverte.


En isolation : / a lse la fnt uvt/
En contexte : [.na.l.se.laf.n.tu.vt]

Inventaire phontique du franais[modifier | modifier le code]


Article dtaill : Liste des graphies des phonmes du franais.

Le franais standard possde 20 21 consonnes et 11 16 voyelles, selon la faon de compter.


Consonnes[modifier | modifier le code]

Labi Labi Lab


Post-
Bilab o- o- io- Dent Alvol Palat Vla Uvul
alvol
iale dent palat vla ale aire ale ire aire
aire
ale ale ire

Occlu
p b t d k
sive

Nasal
m n c 1 c 2
e

Fricat
f v s z c 3
ive
Spira
c 4 wc 4 jc 4
nte

Latr
l
ale

1. Dans la prononciation actuelle, le phonme // se distingue de moins en moins


de [nj].
2. Le phonme // est apparu relativement rcemment, avec l'emprunt de mots
d'origine anglaise ou chinoise. Les Europens ont tendance le prononcer [],
mais pas les Qubcois.
3. Selon le locuteur, [] peut tre remplac par [], [], [x], [], [r] ou []. Ce
phnomne s'appelle variation allophonique.
4. a, b et c //, /w/ et /j/ ne sont pas vrai dire des consonnes ; ces phonmes
appartiennent aux approximantes (appeles aussi semi-voyelles ou semi-
consonnes).
Voyelles[modifier | modifier le code]

Antrieure Centrale Postrieure

Ferme i y u

Mi-ferme e o

Moyenne v 1

Mi-ouverte v 2 v 3 v 4 v 5 v 3

Ouverte a v 6 v 3
1. En franais de France, le phonme // est plutt arrondi, et il peut tre souvent
confondu avec le phonme //, le mot je tant par exemple prononc comme le
mot jeu, mais la distinction est encore maintenue en franais qubcois.
2. La distinction entre // et //, comme dans les mots mettre et matre tend
s'attnuer en franais de France, mais elle est encore maintenue en franais de
Belgique et en franais qubcois. En franais de Belgique, la distinction ne
porte que sur la longueur, tandis qu'en franais qubcois, le // se diphtongue
en [a].
3. a, b et c En franais parisien moderne, en franais de Belgique et en franais de
Suisse, // se prononce [], / / se prononce [] et // se prononce [].
4. Dans la prononciation actuelle des varits de franais parles dans la moiti
nord du territoire franais, dont le franais parisien moderne, // tend
disparatre au profit de / /. Les locuteurs francophones conscients de ne
produire qu'un seul des deux phonmes croient gnralement produire / /,
correspondant la graphie la plus frquente in et tre incapables de
prononcer un correctement : en ralit ils produisent systmatiquement le //
correspondant la graphie moins frquente un. Les deux phonmes sont
gnralement bien conservs dans la moiti sud de la France, en Belgique et au
Qubec. Autre exception : lundi se prononce gnralement [ldi] dans le sud de
la France.
5. La voyelle // est souvent dsarrondie et se rapproche du //[rf. ncessaire].
6. La distinction entre /a/ et //, comme dans les mots patte et pte tend
s'attnuer en France, mais elle est toujours nette en Belgique et au Qubec.

Prononciation des graphmes[modifier | modifier le code]


Consonnes[modifier | modifier le code]

b c ch d f g gn gu h j k l m

/k/, //, //, //,


/b/ /s/ /d/ /f/ // // /k/ /l/ /m/
/s/ /k/ // /w/

r, t,
n ng p ph q qu s ss v w x z
rh th

/k/, /s/, /w/, /z/,


/n/ // /p/ /f/ /k/ // /s/ /t/ /v/ /z/
/kw/ /z/ /v/ /ks/, /s/,
/z/

c vaut /s/ devant e, i, y (ainsi que devant dans certains cas tels que ccum, ou devant
dans certains cas tels que clacanthe, mais cela reste peu frquent) ; /k/ ailleurs ;
g vaut // devant e, i, y; // ailleurs ;
h ne se prononce pas en franais standard, mais peut, plac en dbut de mot, empcher
la liaison avec le mot prcdent (h aspir) ;
s vaut gnralement /z/ entre deux voyelles et /s/ ailleurs ;
ti suivi d'une autre voyelle et non en dbut de mot se prononce parfois /sj/ ;
en gnral, les c, d, g, p, r, s, t, x et z finaux ne se prononcent pas, sauf en cas de liaison.
Voyelles[modifier | modifier le code]

ain, an,
av 1 ai au ayv 3
aim v 2,1 am v2

/j/,
/a/, /e/, /o/,
// /e/ // // /aj/,
// // //
//

, ein, en,
e eau ei euv 1
eim v2 em v2

/e/,
//, /e/, //,
// /e/ /o/ // //
//, // //
//

ien, in, imv


iv 3
iemv 2 2
/i/, /j/ /j/ //

on,
ov 1 u oi oinv 2 ouv 3 oyv 3
om v2

//, //, //, /u/,


/o/ /wa/ /w/ // /waj/
/o/ /e/ // /w/

un,
uv 3 um,
aunv 2

/y/,
//
//

yn,
yv 3 yenv 2
ymv 2

/i/, /j/ /j/ //

1. a, b et c si ces lettres sont suivies du son /z/, elles sont prononces fermes
(comme avec un accent circonflexe) :
a : case /kz/
eu : creuse /kz/
o : rose /oz/
2. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j et k si ces lettres sont suivies de m, n, h ou d'une voyelle, alors
le n ou le m se prononcent au lieu de changer le son de la voyelle prcdente
3. a, b, c, d, e et f si ces voyelles sont suivies d'une voyelle prononce, elles
deviennent des approximantes :
ay : payer /pje/ mais pays /pi/. On trouve galement /aj/ dans
fayot /fajo/, Himalaya /imalaja/ et mayonnaise /majnz/,
et // dans Tremblay
i : ciel /sjl/ mais vie /vi/, cil /sil/, gui /i/
ou : oui /wi/ mais nouille /nuj/, bout /bu/, fou /fu/
oy : royal /wajal/
u : nuit /ni/ mais Nuill /nyje/, fut /fy/, bu /by/
Cas particuliers : En France les sons valant soit /e/ soit // et ceux valant soit /o/ soit // sont par la
plupart des locuteurs prononc /e/ /o/ en syllabes ouvertes et // // en syllabes fermes mais selon
les rgions de nombreuses exceptions subsistent :

ai vaut :
/e/ en fin de mot comme dans : gai /e/, (je) mangeai /me/ mais certains locuteurs
prononcent // comme dans vrai /v/, chai //, balai /bal/ etc. ou encore dans
sais , vais , sait et vait , o // est courant1,2,3,4.
// par tout le monde dans certains cas : faisan /fz/, faisant /fz/, faisons
/fz/ , faiseur /fz/, faisable /fzabl/1,4,5.
il existe de nombreuses variations de prononciations, dont voici quelques exemples :
/e/ dans aigu , aiguiser et aiguille mais // est tolr6.
/e/ en fin de verbe certains diffrencient la premire personne du pass simple je
donnai avec un /e/ et la premire personne de l'imparfait je donnais avec
un //alors que d'autres prononcent toujours //1,7,8.
Certains auteurs parlent d'harmonie vocalique bien que cette notion n'existe pas
habituellement en franais pour expliquer la ralisation /e/ lorsque la voyelle de la
syllabe suivante est /e/, par exemple : baiser /beze/ (/bze/ en langage
soutenu)9 mais baise /bz/. affairer /afee/ (/afe/ en langage soutenu)10 mais
affaire /af/. On se trouve en fait dans le cas gnral de l'opposition syllabe
ouvertes/syllabes fermes.

au se prononce /o/ en syllabe ouverte comme dans chaud , aubade , noyau


mais // dans mauvais , dinosaure , paul (la monnaie), Paul (le prnom masculin)
ou saur (adjectif qui n'est gure usit que dans la locution hareng saur ).

ign vaut :
gnralement /i/ : signe /si/, ligne /li/, guigne /i/, mignon /mi/
dans le cas d'une voyelle suivie de ign, on peut considrer que seul le gn indique // et que
le i forme un digraphe avec la voyelle prcdente : Montaigne /mt/ et non /mta/,
Soignes /swa/ et non pas /s/.
dans quelques prononciations archaques le i fait partie du trigraphe
consonantique // aprs une voyelle : oignon // , Jodoigne /d/11,12
parfois, on rencontre dans des termes techniques la prononciation latinisante /n/ : ign
/ine/ ou /ie/, cognat /kna/, pugnace /pynas/

il vaut :
/il/ presque toujours : il /il/, fil /fil/
/j/ aprs une voyelle : ail /aj/, seuil /sj/
attention toutefois outil /uti/, fusil /fyzi/ et fils /fis/
noter aussi que certains locuteurs prononcent persil /psi/, sourcil /susi/, etc.
ill vaut :
/ij/ presque toujours: bille /bij/ (/il/ mais exceptionnellement : mille /mil/, ville /vil/
et tranquille /trkil/)
/j/ aprs une voyelle, sauf aprs u o il vaut /ij/ : caille /kaj/, nouille /nuj/, mais
cuillre /kij/

suivi ou non de u se prononce // ou // selon le schma syllabes fermes/ouverte

French phonology
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For assistance with IPA transcriptions of French for Wikipedia articles, see Help:IPA/French.

French phonology is the sound system of French. This article discusses mainly
the phonology of Standard French of the Parisian dialect. Notable phonological features include
its uvular r, nasal vowels, and three processes affecting word-final sounds: liaison, a specific
instance of sandhi in which word-final consonants are not pronounced unless they are followed by a
word beginning with a vowel; elision in which certain instances of // (schwa) are elided (such as
when final before an initial vowel) and enchanement(resyllabification) in which word-final and word-
initial consonants may be moved across a syllable boundary, with syllables crossing word
boundaries:
An example of the various processes is this:

Written: On a laiss la fentre ouverte.


Meaning: "The window has been left open."
In isolation: / a lse la fnt uvt/
Together: [. na.l.se.laf.n.tu.vt]
Contents
[hide]

1Consonants
o 1.1Geminates
o 1.2Liaison
2Vowels
o 2.1Close vowels
o 2.2Mid vowels
o 2.3Open vowels
o 2.4Nasal vowels
o 2.5Schwa
o 2.6Length
o 2.7Devoicing
o 2.8Elision
o 2.9Glides and diphthongs
3Stress
o 3.1Emphatic stress
4Intonation
5See also
6References
7Sources
8External links
Consonants[edit]

Consonant phonemes of French

Dental/
Labial Palatal Velar Uvular
Alveolar

Nasal m n ()

voiceless p t k
Stop
voiced b d

voiceless f s (x)
Fricative
voiced v z

plain l j
Approximant
labial w
Distribution of guttural r (such as [ ]) in Europein the mid-20th century.[1]
not usual
only in some educated speech
usual in educated speech
general
Phonetic notes:

/n, t, d/ are laminal denti-alveolar [n, t , d],[2][3] while /s, z/ are dentalized laminal
alveolar [s, z] (commonly called 'dental'), pronounced with the blade of the tongue very close to
the back of the upper front teeth, with the tip resting behind lower front teeth.[2][4]
Stops are always released. Generally, /b, d, / are voiced throughout and /p, t, k/ are
unaspirated.[5]
/l/ is usually apical alveolar [l ] but sometimes laminal denti-alveolar [l ].[3] Before /f, /, it can be
realised as retroflex [].[3]
In current pronunciation, // is merging with /nj/.[6]
The velar nasal // is not a native phoneme of French, but it occurs in loan words such
as camping, bingo or kung-fu.[7]Some speakers who have difficulty with this consonant realise it
as a sequence [] or replace it with //.[8]
The approximants /j, , w/ correspond to the close vowels /i, y, u/. While there are a few minimal
pairs (such as loua /lu.a/'s/he rented' and loi /lwa/ 'law'), there are many cases where there is
free variation.[5]
Some dialects of French have a palatal lateral // (French: l mouill, 'moistened l'), but in the
modern standard variety, it has merged with /j/.[9], Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:47) See
also Glides and diphthongs, below.
The French rhotic has a wide range of realizations: the voiceless or voiced uvular
fricatives [] and [] (the latter also realized as an approximant), the uvular trill [], the alveolar
trill [r], and the alveolar tap []. These are all recognized as the phoneme /r/,[5] but all
except [] and [] are considered dialectal. [] is the standard consonant. Although the
voiceless []is pronounced before or after a voiceless obstruant or at the end of a sentence, the
voiced symbol [] is often used in phonemic transcriptions. See French guttural r and map at
right.
The phoneme /x/ is not a native phoneme of French but occurs in loan words such
as khamsin, manhua or jota. People who have difficulty with this sound usually replace it with
either //, or use a spelling pronunciation (i.e. /kam.sin/, /man.wa/).
Velars /k/and // may become palatalised to [kc] and [] before unrounded front vowels, and
more variably before /a/.[10]

Example words[11]

Voiceless Voiced

IPA Example Gloss IPA Example Gloss

/p/ /pu/ pou 'louse' /b/ /bu/ boue 'mud'

/t/ /tu/ tout 'all' /d/ /du/ doux 'sweet'

/k/ /ku/ cou 'neck' // /u/ got 'taste'

/f/ /fu/ fou 'crazy' /v/ /vu/ vous 'you'

/s/ /su/ sous 'under' /z/ /zo/ zoo 'zoo'

// /u/ chou 'cabbage' // /u/ joue 'cheek'

/m/ /mu/ mou 'soft'


/n/ /nu/ nous 'we, us'

// /uf/ gnouf 'prison' (slang)

// /paki/ parking 'parking lot'

/l/ /lu/ loup 'wolf'

// /u/ roue 'wheel'

Geminates[edit]
Although double consonant letters appear in the orthographic form of many French
words, geminate consonants are relatively rare in the pronunciation of such words. The following
cases can be identified.[12]
The pronunciation [] is found in the future and conditional forms of the verbs courir ('to run')
and mourir ('to die'). The conditional form il mourrait [ilmu] ('he would die'), for example, contrasts
with the imperfect form il mourait [ilmu] ('he was dying'). Other verbs that have a double rr
orthographically in the future and conditional are pronounced with a simple []: il pourra ('he will be
able to'), il verra ('he will see').
When the prefix in- combines with a base that begins with n, the resulting word is sometimes
pronounced with a geminate [n] and similarly for the variants of the same prefix im-, il-, ir-:

inn [in()e] ('innate')


immortel [im()tl] ('immortal')
illisible [il()izibl] ('illegible')
irresponsable [i()sps abl] ('irresponsible')
Other cases of optional gemination can be found in words
like syllabe ('syllable'), grammaire ('grammar'), and illusion ('illusion'). The pronunciation of such
words, in many cases, a spelling pronunciation varies by speaker and gives rise to widely varying
stylistic effects.[13], cited in Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:51) In particular, the gemination of
consonants other than the liquids and nasals /m n l / is "generally considered affected or
pedantic".[14] Examples of stylistically marked pronunciations include addition [adisj] ('addition')
and intelligence [t elis] ('intelligence').
Gemination of doubled 'm' and 'n' is typical of the Languedoc region, as opposed to other southern
accents.
A few cases of gemination do not correspond to double consonant letters in the orthography.[15] The
deletion of word-internal schwas (see below), for example, can give rise to sequences of identical
consonants: l-dedans [ladd] ('inside'), l'honntet [lntte] ('honesty'). Gemination is obligatory in
such contexts. The elided form of the object pronoun l'('him/her/it') can optionally (in nonstandard,
popular speech) be realized as a geminate [l] when it appears after a vowel:

Je l'ai vu [l()evy] ('I saw it')


Il faut l'attraper [ilfol()atape] ('it must be caught')
Finally, a word pronounced with emphatic stress can exhibit gemination of its first syllable-initial
consonant:

formidable [fmidabl] ('terrific')


pouvantable [epuvtabl] ('horrible')
Liaison[edit]
Main article: Liaison (French)
Many words in French can be analyzed as having a "latent" final consonant that is pronounced only
in certain syntactic contexts when the next word begins with a vowel. For example, the
word deux /d/ ('two') is pronounced [d] in isolation or before a consonant-initial word (deux
jours /d u/ [du] 'two days'), but in deux ans /dz/ ('two years'), the linking or liaison
consonant /z/ is pronounced.

Vowels[edit]

Vowels of Parisian French, from Collins & Mees (2013:225226). Many speakers
merge // with // and /a/with //. In the latter case, the outcome is an open
central [] between the two (not shown on the chart).
Standard French contrasts up to 13 oral vowels and up to 4 nasal vowels. The schwa (in the center
of the diagram next to this paragraph) is not necessarily a distinctive sound. Even though it often
merges with one of the mid front rounded vowels, its patterning suggests that it is a separate
phoneme (see the sub-section Schwa below).

Vowel phonemes in Standard French

Front
Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i y u

Close-mid oral e o

()
Open-mid
()
nasal

Open
oral (a) a ()

Example words
Vowel Example
IPA Orthography Gloss
Oral vowels
/i/ /si/ si 'if'
/e/ /fe/ fe 'fairy'
// /f/ fait 'does'
// /ft/ fte 'party'
// /s/ ce 'this'/'that'
// /s/ sur 'sister'
// /s/ ceux 'those'
/y/ /sy/ su 'known'
/u/ /su/ sous 'under'
/o/ /so/ sot 'silly'
// /s/ sort 'fate'
/a/ /sa/ sa 'his'/'her',
// /pt/ pte 'dough'
Nasal vowels
// /s/ sans 'without'
// /s/ son 'his'
// /b/ brun 'brown'
// [16] /b/ brin 'twig'
Semi-vowels
/j/ /j/ hier 'yesterday'
// /pli/ pluie 'rain'
/w/ /wi/ oui 'yes'
Not distinguished in all dialects.
Close vowels[edit]
In contrast with the mid vowels, there is no tenselax contrast in close vowels. However, non-
phonemic lax (near-close) [, , ] appear in the Quebec and Cajun varieties as allophones of /i, y,
u/ when the vowel is both phonetically short (so not before /v, z, , /) and in a closed syllable, so
that e.g. petite [ptst] 'small (f.)' differs from petit 'small (m.)' [ptsi] not only in the presence of the
final /t/ but also in the tenseness of the /i/. Laxing is obligatory only in stressed closed syllables, but
also found in other environments to various degrees.[17][18]
In Parisian French, /i, u/ are consistently close [i, u],[19][20][21] but the exact height of /y/ is somewhat
debatable as it has been variously described as close [y][19][20] and near-close [].[21]
Mid vowels[edit]
Although the mid vowels contrast in certain environments, there is limited distributional overlap so
they often appear in complementary distribution. Generally, close-mid vowels (/e, , o/) are found in
open syllables, and open-mid vowels (/, , /) are found in closed syllables. However, there are
minimal pairs:[19]
open-mid // and close-mid /e/ contrast in final-position open syllables:
allait [al] ('was going'), vs. all [ale] ('gone');
likewise, open-mid // and // contrast with close-mid /o/ and // mostly in closed
monosyllables, such as these:
jeune [n] ('young'), vs. jene [n] ('fast', verb),
roc [k] ('rock'), vs. rauque [ok] ('hoarse'),
Rhodes [d] ('Rhodes'), vs. rde [od] ('[I] lurk'),
Paul [pl] ('Paul', masculine), vs. Paule [pol] ('Paule', feminine),
bonne [bn] ('good', feminine), vs. Beaune [bon] ('Beaune', the city).
Beyond the general rule, known as the loi de position among French phonologists,[22] there are some
exceptions. For instance, /o/ and // are found in closed syllables ending in [z], and only [] is found
in closed monosyllables before [], [], and [].[23]
The phonemic opposition of // and /e/ has been lost in the southern half of France, where these two
sounds are found only in complementary distribution. The phonemic oppositions of // and /o/ and
of // and // in terminal open syllables have been lost in all of France, but not in Belgium,
where pot and peau are still opposed as /p/ and /po/.[24]
Open vowels[edit]
The phonemic contrast between front /a/ and back // is sometimes not maintained in Standard
French, which leads some researchers to reject the idea of two distinct phonemes.[25] However, the
distinction is still clearly maintained in other dialects such as Quebec French.[26]
While there is much variation among speakers in France, a number of general tendencies can be
observed. First of all, the distinction is most often preserved in word-final stressed syllables such as
in these minimal pairs:
tache /ta/ [ta] ('stain'), vs. tche /t/ [t] ('task')
rat /a/ [a] ('rat'), vs. ras // [] ('short').
There are certain environments that prefer one open vowel over the other. For
example, // is preferred after /w/ and before /z/:
trois [tw] ('three'),
gaz [z] ('gas').[27]
The difference in quality is often reinforced by a difference in length (but the
difference is contrastive in final closed syllables). The exact distribution of the two
vowels varies greatly from speaker to speaker.[28]
Back // is much rarer in unstressed syllables, but it can be encountered in some
common words:
chteau [to] ('castle'),
pass [pse] ('past').
Morphologically complex words derived from words containing
stressed // do not retain it:
g /ae/ [ae] ('aged', from ge // [])
rarissime /aisim()/ [aisim] ('very rare', from rare // []).
Even in the final syllable of a word, back // may become [a] if the
word in question loses its stress within the extended phonological
context:[27]
J'ai t au bois /e ete o bw/ [e.ete.o.bw] ('I was in the woods'),
J'ai t au bois de Vincennes /e ete o bw dvs n/ [e.ete.o.bwad.v. sn] ('I was in the
Vincennes woods').
Nasal vowels[edit]
The phonetic qualities of the back nasal vowels are not
very similar to those of the corresponding oral vowels, and
the contrasting factor that distinguishes // and // is the
extra lip rounding of the latter according to some
linguists,[29] but other linguists have come to the conclusion
that the main difference is in tongue height.[30] Speakers
who produce both //and // distinguish them mainly
through increased lip rounding of the former, but many
speakers use only the latter phoneme, especially most
speakers in northern France such as Paris (but not farther
north, in Belgium).[29][30]
In some dialects, particularly that of Europe, there is an
attested tendency for nasal vowels to shift in a
counterclockwise direction: // tends to be more open and
shifts toward the vowel space of // (realised also
as []), // rises and rounds to [] (realised also as [])
and // shifts to [] or []. Also, there also is an opposite
movement for // for which it becomes more open and
unrounds to [], resulting in a merger of Standard
French // and // in this case.[30][31] In Quebec French, two
of the vowels shift in a different direction: // [], more or
less as in Europe, but // [] and // [].[32]
Schwa[edit]
When phonetically realised, schwa (//), also
called e caduc ('dropped e') and e muet ('mute e'), is
a mid-central vowel with some rounding.[19] Many authors
consider it to be phonetically identical to [].[33][34] Geoff
Lindsey suggests the symbol .[35][36] Fagyal, Kibbee &
Jenkins (2006) state, more specifically, that it merges
with // before high vowels and glides:
nettet /ntte/ [ntte] ('clarity'),
in phrase-final stressed position:
dis-le ! /di l/ [di.l] ('say it'),
and that it merges
with [] elsewhere.[37] However, some speakers
make a clear distinction, and it exhibits special
phonological behavior that warrants considering it
a distinct phoneme. Furthermore, the merger
occurs mainly in the French of France; in Quebec,
// and // are still distinguished.[38]
The main characteristic of French schwa is its
"instability": the fact that under certain conditions it
has no phonetic realisation.
That is usually the case when it follows a
single consonant in a medial syllable:
rappeler /aple/ [aple] ('to recall'),
It is most frequently mute in word-final
position:
table /tabl()/ [tabl] ('table').
Word-final schwas are optionally pronounced if
preceded by two or more consonants and
followed by a consonant-initial word:
une porte ferme /yn() pt() fme/ [ynpt()fme] ('a closed door').
In the future and conditional forms of -er verbs,
however, the schwa is sometimes deleted
even after two consonants:
tu garderais /ty ad/ [tyad()] ('you would guard'),
nous brusquerons [les choses] /nu bysk/ [nubysk()] ('we will precipitate [things]').
On the other hand, it is pronounced word-
internally when it follows more pronounced
consonants that cannot be combined into a
complex onset with the initial consonants of
the next syllable:
gredin /d/ [d] ('scoundrel'),
sept petits /st pti/ [stpti] ('seven little ones').[39]
Pronouncing [] as [] is a way to emphasise the
syllable.[citation needed] For instance,
pronouncing biberon ('baby
bottle') [bib] instead of [bib] is a way to
draw attention to the e (to clarify the spelling, for
example).
In French versification, word-final schwa is always
elided before another vowel and at the ends of
verses. It is pronounced before a following
consonant-initial word.[40] For example, une grande
femme fut ici [yn() d() fam() fytisi], would
be pronounced [yn d fam fytisi], with
the // at the end of each word being pronounced.
Schwa cannot normally be realised as a front
vowel ([]) in closed syllables. In such contexts in
inflectional and derivational morphology, schwa
usually alternates with the front vowel //:
harceler /asle/ [asle] ('to harass'), with
[il] harcelle /asl/ [asl] ('[he] harasses').[41]
A three-way alternation can be observed,
in a few cases, for a number of speakers:
appeler /aple/ [aple] ('to call'),
j'appelle /apl/ [apl] ('I call'),
appellation /apelasj/ [apelasj] ('brand'), which can also be pronounced [ap(l)lasj].[42]
Instances of orthographic e
that do not exhibit the
behaviour described above
may be better analysed as
corresponding to the stable,
full vowel //.
The enclitic pronoun le, for
example, always keeps its
vowel in contexts like donnez-
le-moi /dne l
mwa/ [dnelmwa] ('give it
to me') for which schwa
deletion would normally apply,
and it counts as a full syllable
for the determination of
stress.
Cases of word-internal stable
e are more subject to
variation among speakers,
but, for example, un rebelle /
bl/ [ bl] ('a rebel')
must be pronounced with a
full vowel in contrast to un
rebond /
b/ [ b] or [ b] ('a
bounce').[43]

Length[edit]
Except for the distinction still made by some speakers
between // and // in rare minimal pairs
like mettre [mt] ('to put') vs. matre [mt] ('teacher'),
variation in vowel length is entirely allophonic. Vowels
can be lengthened in closed, stressed syllables, under
the following two conditions:
/o/, //, //, and the nasal vowels are lengthened
before any
consonant: pte [pt] ('dough'), chante [t] ('sings').
All vowels are lengthened if followed by one of the
consonants /v/, /z/, //, // (not in combination), or by
the
cluster /v/: mer/mre [m] ('sea/mother'), crise [ki
z] ('crisis'), livre[liv] ('book').[44], Tranel (1987:4951)
However, words such as (ils) servent [sv] ('(they)
serve') or tarte [tat] ('pie') are pronounced with short
vowels since the // appears in clusters other
than /v/.
When such syllables lose their stress, the lengthening
effect may be absent. The vowel [o] of saute is long
in Regarde comme elle saute !, in which the word is
phrase-final and therefore stressed, but not in Qu'est-
ce qu'elle saute bien ![45] In accents wherein // is
distinguished from //, however, it is still pronounced
with a long vowel even in an unstressed position, as in
as in fte in C'est une fte importante.[45]
The following table presents the pronunciation of a
representative sample of words in phrase-final
(stressed) position:

Vowel value in closed


syllable Vowel value
Phone in
me Non- open
Lengthening syllable
lengthening
consonant
consonant

/i/ habite [a.bit] livre [liv] habit [a.bi]

/e/ t [e.te]

// faites [ft] faire [f] fait [f]


// fte [ft] rve [v]

joyeu [wa.j joyeu [wa.j


// jene [n]
se z] x ]

uvr
// jeune [n] [v]
e

/o/ saute [sot] rose [oz] saut [so]

// sotte [st] mort [m]

// le [l]

[de.byt [de.by
/y/ dbute juge [y] dbut
] ]

bous
/u/ bourse [bus] [buz] bout [bu]
e

/a/ rate [at] rage [a] rat [a]

// appte [a.pt] rase [z] appt [a.p]


// pende [pd] genre [] pends [p]

rpons [e.p pon rpon [e.p


// [e.p]
e s] ge ds ]

empru [.p grung [ empru [.p


//
nte t] e ] nt ]

quinz
// teinte [t t] [k z] teint [t]
e
Devoicing[edit]
In Parisian French, the close vowels /i, y, u/ and the
mid front /e, / at the end of utterances can
be devoiced. A devoiced vowel may be followed by a
sound similar to the voiceless palatal fricative []:
Merci. /msi/ [msi ] ('Thank you.'),
Allez ! /ale/ [ale] ('Go!').[46]
In Quebec French, close vowels are often
devoiced when unstressed and surrounded by
voiceless consonants:
universit /ynivsite/ [ynivsi te] ('university').[47]
Though a more prominent feature of Quebec
French, phrase-medial devoicing is also found in
European French.[48]
Elision[edit]
Main article: Elision (French)
The final vowel (usually //) of a number of
monosyllabic function words is elided in
syntactic combinations with a following word that
begins with a vowel. For example, compare the
pronunciation of the unstressed subject
pronoun, in je dors / d/ [.d] ('I am
sleeping'), and in j'arrive /aiv/ [a.iv] ('I am
arriving').
Glides and diphthongs[edit]
The glides [j], [w], and [] appear in syllable
onsets immediately followed by a full vowel. In
many cases, they alternate systematically with
their vowel counterparts [i], [u], and [y] such as
in the following pairs of verb forms:
nie [ni]; nier [nje] ('deny')
loue [lu]; louer [lwe] ('rent')
tue [ty]; tuer [te] ('kill')
The glides in the examples can be
analysed as the result of a glide formation
process that turns an underlying high
vowel into a glide when followed by
another vowel: /nie/ [nje].
This process is usually blocked after a
complex onset of the form obstruent +
liquid (a stop or a fricative followed
by /l/ or //). For example, while the
pair loue/louer shows an alternation
between [u] and [w], the same suffix
added to cloue [klu], a word with a
complex onset, does not trigger the glide
formation: clouer [klue] ('to nail') Some
sequences of glide + vowel can be found
after obstruent-liquid onsets, however.
The main examples are [i], as
in pluie [pli] ('rain'), [wa],
and [w] .[49] They can be dealt with in
different ways, as by adding appropriate
contextual conditions to the glide
formation rule or by assuming that the
phonemic inventory of French includes
underlying glides or
rising diphthongs like /i/and /wa/.[50][51]
Glide formation normally does not occur
across morpheme boundaries in
compounds like semi-aride ('semi-
arid').[52] However, in colloquial
registers, si elle [sil] ('if she') can be
pronounced just like ciel [sjl] ('sky'), or tu
as [ty] ('you have') like tua [ta] ('[he]
killed').[53]
The glide [j] can also occur in syllable
coda position, after a vowel, as
in soleil [slj] ('sun'). There again, one
can formulate a derivation from an
underlying full vowel /i/, but the analysis is
not always adequate because of the
existence of possible minimal pairs
like pays [pi] ('country')
/ paye [pj] ('paycheck')
and abbaye [abi] ('abbey')
/ abeille [abj]('bee').[54] Schane (1968)
proposes an abstract analysis deriving
postvocalic [j] from an underlying lateral
by palatalization and glide conversion
(/li/ // /j/).[55]
Stress[edit]
Word stress is not distinctive in French,
so two words cannot be distinguished on
the basis of stress placement alone. In
fact, grammatical stress is always on the
final full syllable (syllable with a vowel
other than schwa) of a word.
Monosyllables with schwa as their only
vowel (ce, de, que, etc.) are
generally clitics but otherwise may
receive stress.[33]
The difference between stressed and
unstressed syllables in French is less
marked than in English. Vowels in
unstressed syllables keep their full
quality, regardless of whether the rhythm
of the speaker is syllable-timed or mora-
timed (see Isochrony).[56] Moreover, words
lose their stress to varying degrees when
pronounced in phrases and sentences. In
general, only the last word in a
phonological phrase retains its full
grammatical stress (on its last full
syllable).[57]
Emphatic stress[edit]
Emphatic stress is used to call attention
to a specific element in a given context
such as to express a contrast or to
reinforce the emotive content of a word.
In French, this stress falls on the first
consonant-initial syllable of the word in
question. The characteristics associated
with emphatic stress include increased
amplitude and pitch of the vowel and
gemination of the onset consonant, as
mentioned above.[58] Emphatic stress
does not replace, but occurs in tandem
with, grammatical stress.[59]
C'est parfaitement
vrai. [spaftmv] ('It's perfectly
true.'; no emphatic stress)
C'est parfaitement

vrai. [sp()aftmv] (emphatic


stress on parfaitement)
For words that begin with a vowel,
emphatic stress falls on the first syllable
that begins with a consonant or on the
initial syllable with the insertion of a glottal
stop or a liaisonconsonant.
C'est
pouvantable. [step()uvtabl] ('It's
terrible.'; emphatic stress on second
syllable of pouvantable)
C'est pouvantable [st()epuvtabl] (i
nitial syllable with liaison consonant [t])
C'est pouvantable [sepuvtabl] (ini
tial syllable with glottal stop insertion)
Intonation[edit]
Main article: Intonation (linguistics)
French
French intonation differs substantially
from that of English.[60] There are four
primary patterns:
The continuation pattern is a rise in
pitch occurring in the last syllable of a
rhythm group (typically a phrase).
The finality pattern is a sharp fall in
pitch occurring in the last syllable of a
declarative statement.
The yes/no intonation is a sharp rise in
pitch occurring in the last syllable of a
yes/no question.
The information question intonation is a
rapid fall-off from high pitch on the first
word of a non-yes/no question, often
followed by a small rise in pitch on the
last syllable of the question.