French phonology

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This article mainly discusses the phonological system of standard French based on the Parisian dialect. Notable phonological features of French include its uvular r, nasal vowels, and three processes affecting word-final sounds: liaison, a certain type of sandhi, wherein word-final consonants are not pronounced unless followed by a word beginning with a vowel; elision, wherein certain instances of /ə/ (schwa) are elided (e.g. when final before an initial vowel); and enchaînement (resyllabification), in which word-final and word-initial consonants may be moved across a syllable boundary, so that syllables may cross word boundaries.

An example of these various processes is as follows:

  • Written: On a laissé la fenêtre ouverte.
  • Meaning: "The window has been left open."
  • In isolation: /ɔ̃ a lɛse la fənɛːtʁ uvɛʁt/
  • Together: [ɔ̃.na.lɛ.se.laf.nɛː.tʁu.vɛʁt]


Consonant phonemes of French
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular
Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ (x)
voiced v z ʒ ʁ
Approximant plain l j
labialized ɥ w
File:Uvular rhotics in Europe.png
Distribution of guttural r (e.g. [ʁ ʀ χ]) in Europe in the mid-20th century.[1]
  not usual
  only in some educated speech
  usual in educated speech

Phonetic notes:

  • /n, t, d/ are laminal denti-alveolar [, , ],[2][3] while /s, z/ are dentalized laminal alveolar [, ] (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]
  • /l/ is much more commonly apical alveolar [], then laminal denti-alveolar [].[3] Before /f, ʒ/, it can be realized as retroflex [ɭ].[3]
  • In current pronunciation, /ɲ/ is merging with /nj/.[5]
  • The velar nasal /ŋ/ is not a native phoneme of French, but occurs in loan words such as camping, bingo or kung-fu.[6] Some speakers who have difficulty with this consonant realize it as a sequence [ŋɡ] or replace it with /ɲ/.[7]
  • The approximants /j, ɥ, 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.[8]
  • Some dialects of French have a palatal lateral /ʎ/ (French: l mouillé, 'moistened l'), but in the modern standard variety this phoneme has merged with /j/.[9] See also Glides and diphthongs, below.
  • The French rhotic has a wide range of realizations: the uvular fricatives [χ] and [ʁ] (the latter also realized as an approximant), the uvular trill [ʀ], the alveolar trill [r], and the alveolar tap [ɾ]. These are all recognized as the phoneme /r/,[8] but all except [ʁ] and [χ] are considered dialectal. [ʁ] is the standard consonant. 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 replace it with /ʁ/.
  • Some speakers pronounce /k/ and /ɡ/ as [c] and [ɟ] before /i, e, ɛ, a, ɛ̃/ and at the end of a word.[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' /ɡ/ /ɡu/ goût 'taste'
/f/ /fu/ fou 'crazy' /v/ /vu/ vous 'you'
/s/ /su/ sous 'under' /z/ /zo/ zoo 'zoo'
/ʃ/ /ʃu/ chou 'cabbage' /ʒ/ /ʒu/ joue 'cheek'
/m/ /mu/ mou 'soft'
/n/ /nu/ nous 'we, us'
/ɲ/ /aɲo/ agneau 'lamb'
/ŋ/ /paʁkiŋ/ parking 'parking lot'
/l/ /lu/ loup 'wolf'
/ʁ/ /ʁu/ roue 'wheel'


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 [ʁː] is found in the future and conditional forms of the verbs courir ('to run') and mourir ('to die'). The conditional form il mourrait [ilmuʁːɛ] ('he would die'), for example, contrasts with the imperfect form il mourait [ilmuʁɛ] ('he was dying'). Other verbs that have a double ⟨rr⟩ orthographically in the future and conditional are pronounced with a simple [ʁ]: 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 can optionally be pronounced with a geminate [nː], and similarly for the variants of the same prefix im-, il-, ir-:

  • inné [in(ː)e] ('innate')
  • immortel [im(ː)ɔʁtɛl] ('immortal')
  • illisible [il(ː)izibl] ('illegible')
  • irresponsable [iʁ(ː)ɛspɔ̃sabl] ('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 due to orthographic influence (see Spelling pronunciation), is subject to speaker variation, and gives rise to widely varying stylistic effects.[13] In particular, the gemination of consonants other than the liquids and nasals /m n l ʁ/ is "generally considered affected or pedantic".[14] Examples of stylistically marked pronunciations include addition [adːisjɔ̃] ('addition') and intelligence [ɛ̃telːiʒɑ̃s] ('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, e.g. là-dedans [laddɑ̃] ('inside'), l'honnêteté [lɔnɛtte] ('honesty'). Gemination is obligatory in such contexts. The elided form of the object pronoun l'  ('him/her/it') can optionally (in non-standard, popular speech) be realized as a geminate [lː] when it appears after a vowel:

  • Je l'ai vu [ʒǝl(ː)evy] ('I saw it')
  • Il faut l'attraper [ilfol(ː)atχape] ('it must be caught')

Finally, a word pronounced with emphatic stress can exhibit gemination of its first syllable-initial consonant:

  • formidable [fːɔʁmidabl] ('terrific')
  • épouvantable [epːuvɑ̃tabl] ('horrible')


Many words in French can be analyzed as having a "latent" final consonant that is only pronounced in certain syntactic contexts when the next word begins with a vowel. For example, the word deux /dø/ ('two') is pronounced [dø] in isolation or before a consonant-initial word (deux jours /dø ʒuʁ/[døʒuːʁ] 'two days'), but in deux ans /døz‿ɑ̃/ ('two years'), the linking or liaison consonant /z/ is pronounced.


Oral vowels of French. from Fougeron & Smith (1993:73).
Unrounded vowels are shown to the left of the dots and rounded vowels the right.
The speaker in question does not exhibit a contrast between /a/ and /ɑ/.
Chart with audio

Standard French contrasts up to thirteen oral vowels and up to four nasal vowels. The schwa (in the center of the diagram beside this paragraph) is not necessarily a distinctive sound; even though it is often realized as other vowels, its patterning suggests that it is a separate phoneme (see the sub-section Schwa below).

  Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close oral i y   u
Close-mid e ø ə o
Open-mid ɛ (ɛː) œ ɔ̜
nasal ɛ̃ (œ̃)   ɔ̃
Open   ɑ̃
oral a (ɑ)

Open vowels

The phonemic contrast between front /a/ and back /ɑ/ is only partially maintained in Standard French, leading some researchers to reject the idea of two distinct phonemes.[16] However, the distinction is still clearly maintained in other dialects, such as that of Quebec.[17]

While speakers in France show significant variation in this area, a number of general tendencies can be observed. First, the distinction is best preserved in word-final stressed syllables such as in the minimal pairs:

tache /taʃ/[ˈtaʃ] ('stain'), vs. tâche /tɑʃ/[ˈtɑːʃ] ('task')
rat /ʁa/[ˈʁa] ('rat'), vs. ras /ʁɑ/[ˈʁɑ] ('short').

There are certain environments that favor one open vowel over the other. For example, /ɑ/ is favored after /ʁw/ and before /z/:

trois [ˈtχwɑ] ('three'),
gaz [ɡɑːz] ('gas').[18]

The difference in quality is often reinforced by a difference in length (however this difference is contrastive in final closed syllables). The exact distribution of the two vowels varies greatly from speaker to speaker.[19]

Back /ɑ/ is much rarer in unstressed syllables. It can still be encountered in some common words:

château [ʃɑˈto] ('castle'),
passé [pɑˈse] ('past').

Morphologically complex words derived from words containing stressed /ɑ/ may or may not retain this vowel:

âgé /ɑʒe/[ɑˑˈʒe] ('aged', from âge /ɑʒ/ɑːʒ])
rarissime /ʁaʁisim(ə)/aʁiˈsim] ('very rare', from rare /ʁɑʁ/[ˈʁɑːʁ]).

Even in a final syllable, back /ɑ/ may become [a] if the word in question loses its stress within the extended phonological context:[18]

J'ai été au bois /ʒe ete o bwɑ/[ʒe.ete.oˈbwa] ('I was in the woods'),
J'ai été au bois de Vincennes /ʒe ete o bwɑ dǝvɛ̃sɛn/[ʒe.ete.obwadvɛ̃ˈsɛn] ('I was in the Vincennes woods').

Mid vowels

Example words
Vowel Example
IPA Orthography Gloss
Oral vowels
/i/ /si/ si 'if'
/e/ /fe/ fée 'fairy'
/ɛ/ /fɛ/ fait 'does'
/ɛː/ /fɛːt/ fête 'party'
/ə/ /sə/ ce 'this'/'that'
/œ/ /sœːʁ/ sœur 'sister'
/ø/ /sø/ ceux 'those'
/y/ /sy/ su 'known'
/u/ /su/ sous 'under'
/o/ /so/ sot 'silly'
/ɔ/ /sɔːʁ/ sort 'fate'
/a/ /sa/ sa 'his'/'her',
/ɑ/ /pɑːt/ pâte 'dough'
Nasal vowels
/ɑ̃/ /sɑ̃/ sans 'without'
/ɔ̃/ /sɔ̃/ son 'his'
/œ̃/ /bʁœ̃/ brun 'brown'
/ɛ̃/[20] /bʁɛ̃/ brin 'sprig'
/j/ /jɛʁ/ hier 'yesterday'
/ɥ/ /plɥi/ pluie 'rain'
/w/ /wi/ oui 'yes'

Although the mid vowels contrast in certain environments, there is limited distributional overlap, so that they often appear in complementary distribution. Generally speaking, close-mid vowels are found in open syllables, whereas open-mid vowels are found in closed syllables. Minimal pairs can, however, still be found:[21]

  • open-mid /ɛ/ and close-mid /e/ contrast in final-position open syllables, e.g.:
    allait [alɛ] ('was going'), vs. allé [ale] ('gone');
  • likewise, open-mid /ɔ/ and /œ/ contrast with close-mid /o/ and /ø/ mostly in closed monosyllables, such as:
    jeune [ˈʒœn] ('young'), vs. jeûne [ˈʒøːn] ('fast', verb),
    roc [ˈrɔk] ('rock'), vs. rauque [ˈroːk] ('hoarse'),
    Rhodes [ˈrɔd] ('Rhodes'), vs. rôde [ˈroːd] ('[I] lurk'),
    Paul [ˈpɔl] ('Paul', masculine), vs. Paule [ˈpoːl] ('Paule', feminine),
    bonne [ˈbɔn] ('good', f.), vs. Beaune [ˈboːn] ('Beaune', the city).

Beyond this general rule, known as the loi de position among French phonologists,[22] there are some complications. For instance, /o/ and /ø/ are found in closed syllables ending in [z], whereas only [ɔ] is found in closed monosyllables before [ʁ], [ɲ], and [ɡ].[23]

Nasal vowels

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 /ɑ̃/ and /ɔ̃/ is the extra lip rounding of the latter according to some linguists,[24] but other linguists have come to the conclusion that the main difference is in tongue height.[25] The speakers who produce both /œ̃/ and /ɛ̃/ distinguish them mainly through increased lip rounding of the former, but many speakers use only the latter phoneme, especially speakers in Paris and most of the north of France (but not farther north, in Belgium).[24][25]

In some dialects, particularly that of Europe, there is an attested tendency for nasal vowels to shift in a counter-clockwise direction. That is /ɛ̃/ tends to be more open and shifts toward the vowel space of /ɑ̃/ (realized also as [æ̃]), /ɑ̃/ rises and rounds to [ɔ̃] (realized also as [ɒ̃]), and /ɔ̃/ shifts to [õ] or [ũ]. Apart from this, there also exists an opposite movement for /ɔ̃/ where it becomes more open and unrounds to [ɑ̃], resulting in a merger of Standard French /ɔ̃/ and /ɛ̃/ in this case.[25][26] In Quebec French, this shift has the clockwise[clarification needed] direction: /ɛ̃/[ẽ], /ɑ̃/[ã], /ɔ̃/[õ].[27]


When phonetically realized, schwa (/ə/), also called ⟨e⟩ caduc ('dropped ⟨e⟩') and ⟨e⟩ muet ('mute ⟨e⟩'), is a mid-central vowel with some rounding.[21] Many authors consider it to be phonetically identical to [œ].[28][29] Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006) state more specifically that it merges with /ø/ before high vowels and glides:

netteté /nɛtəte/[nɛtøte] ('clarity'),
atelier /atəlje/[atølje] ('workshop'),

in phrase-final stressed position:

dis-le ! /di lə/[diˈlø] ('say it'),

and that it merges with [œ] elsewhere.[30] But some speakers make a clear distinction, and it exhibits special phonological behavior that warrants considering it a distinct phoneme. Furthermore, this merger occurs mainly in French as spoken in France; in Quebec, /ø/ and /ə/ are distinguished.[31]

The main characteristic of French schwa is its "instability" — i.e. the fact that under certain conditions it has no phonetic realization.

  • This is usually the case when it follows a single consonant in a medial syllable:
    rappeler /ʁapəle/[ʁaple] ('to recall'),
  • It is most frequently mute in word-final position:
    table /tabl(ə)/[ˈtabl] ('table').
  • Word-final schwas are optionally pronounced if preceded by two or more consonants and followed by a consonant-initial word:
    une porte fermée /yn(ə) pɔʁt(ə) fɛʁme/[ynpɔχt(ə)fɛʁme] ('a closed door').
  • In the future and conditional forms of -er verbs, however, the schwa can be optionally deleted even after two consonants:
    tu garderais /ty ɡaʁdəʁɛ/[tyɡaʁd(ə)ʁɛ] ('you would guard'),
    nous brusquerons [les choses] /nu bʁyskəʁɔ̃/[nubʁysk(ə)ʁɔ̃] ('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 /ɡʁədɛ̃/[ɡʁədɛ̃] ('scoundrel'),
    sept petits /sɛt pəti/[ˈsɛtpəti] ('seven little ones').[32]

Pronouncing [ə] with [œ] is a way to emphasize the syllable. For instance, pronouncing biberon ('baby bottle') [bibœˈrɔ̃] instead of [bibəˈrɔ̃] is a way to draw attention to the e (to clarify 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.[33] For example, une grande femme fut ici [yn(ə) ɡʁɑ̃d(ə) fam(ə) fyt‿isi], would be pronounced [ynəɡʁɑ̃dəfaməfytisi], with the /ə/ at the end of each word being pronounced.

Schwa cannot normally be realized as a front vowel ([œ]) in closed syllables. In such contexts in inflectional and derivational morphology, schwa usually alternates with the front vowel /ɛ/. Compare, for example:

harceler /aʁsəle/[aχsœle] ('to harass'), with
[il] harcèle /aʁsɛl/[aχsɛl] ('[he] harasses').[34]

A three-way alternation can be observed in a few cases for a number of speakers:

appeler /apəle/[ap(œ)le] ('to call'),
j'appelle /ʒ‿apɛl/[ʒapɛl] ('I call'),
appellation /apelasjɔ̃/[apelasjɔ̃] ('brand'), but this form can also be pronounced [apɛ(l)lasjɔ̃].[35]

Instances of orthographic ⟨e⟩ that do not exhibit the behavior described above may be better analyzed as corresponding to the stable, full vowel /œ/. The enclitic pronoun -le, for example, obligatorily keeps its vowel in contexts like donnez-le-moi /dɔne lə mwa/[dɔnelœmwa] ('give it to me') where 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 /ɛ̃ ʁəbɛl/[ɛ̃ʁœbɛl] ('a rebel') must be pronounced with a full vowel, in contrast to un rebond /ɛ̃ ʁəbɔ̃/[ɛ̃ːʁœbɔ̃] or [ɛ̃ʁˈbɔ̃] ('a bounce').[36]


With the exception of the distinction made by some speakers between /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ in rare minimal pairs like mettre [mɛtχ] ('to put') vs. maître [mɛːtχ] ('teacher'), variation in vowel length is entirely allophonic. Vowels can be lengthened in closed, stressed syllables, under the following two conditions:

  • /o/, /ø/, /ɑ/, and the nasal vowels are lengthened before any consonant. E.g. pâte [pɑːt] ('dough'), chante [ʃɑ̃ːt] ('sings').
  • All vowels are lengthened if followed by one of the consonants /v/, /z/, /ʒ/, /ʁ/ (not in combination), or by the cluster /vʁ/. E.g. mer/mère [mɛːʁ] ('sea/mother'), crise [kʁiːz] ('crisis'), livre [liːvʁ] ('book').[37] However, words such as (ils) servent [sɛʁv] ('(they) serve') or tarte [taʁt] ('pie') are pronounced with short vowels, since the /ʁ/ appears in clusters other than /vʁ/.

When such syllables lose their stress, the lengthening effect may be absent. The vowel [o] of saute is long in Regarde comme elle saute! where it is final, but not in Qu'est-ce qu'elle saute bien!.[38] In this case, the vowel is unstressed because it is not phrase-final. An exception occurs however with the phoneme /ɛː/ because of its distinctive nature, provided it is word-final, as in C'est une fête importante, where fête is pronounced with long /ɛː/ despite being unstressed in that position.[38]

The following table presents the pronunciation of a representative sample of words in phrase-final (stressed) position:

phoneme vowel value in closed syllable vowel value in
open syllable
non-lengthening consonant lengthening consonant
/i/ habite [a.bit] livre [liːvʁ] habit []
/e/ été [e.te]
/ɛ/ faites [fɛt] faire [fɛːʁ] fait [fɛ]
/ɛː/ fête [fɛːt] rêve [ʁɛːv]
/œ/ jeune [ʒœn] œuvre [œːvʁ]
/ə/ le [lə]
/øː/ jeûne [ʒøːn] joyeuse [ʒwa.jøːz] joyeux [ʒwa.jø]
/y/ débute [de.byt] juge [ʒyːʒ] début []
/u/ bourse [buχs] bouse [buːz] bout [bu]
/o/ saute [soːt] rose [ʁoːz] saut [so]
/ɔ/ sotte [sɔt] mort [mɔːʁ]
/a/ rate [ʁat] rage [ʁaːʒ] rat [ʁa]
/ɑː/ appâte [a.pɑːt] rase [ʁɑːz] appât [a.pɑ]
/ɑ̃ː/ pende [pɑ̃ːd] genre [ʒɑ̃ːʁ] pends [pɑ̃]
/ɔ̃/ réponse [ʁe.pɔ̃ːs] éponge [e.pɔ̃ːʒ] réponds [ʁe.pɔ̃]
/œ̃/ emprunte [ɑ̃.pχœ̃ːt] grunge [ɡʁœ̃ːʒ] emprunt [ɑ̃.pχœ̃]
/ɛ̃/ teinte [tɛ̃ːt] quinze [kɛ̃ːz] teint [tɛ̃]


The final vowel (most often /ə/) 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 /ʒə dɔʁ/ [ʒəˈdɔʁ] ('I am sleeping'), and in j'arrive /ʒ‿aʁiv/ [ʒaˈʁiv] ('I am arriving').

Glides and diphthongs

The glides [j], [w], and [ɥ] appear in syllable onsets, immediately followed by a full vowel. In many cases they alternate systematically with their vowel counterparts [i], [u], and [y], for example in the following pairs of verb forms:

nie [ni]; nier [nje] ('deny')
loue [lu]; louer [lwe] ('rent')
tue [ty]; tuer [tɥe] ('kill')

The glides in these examples can be analyzed as the result of a glide formation process that turns an underlying high vowel into a glide when followed by another vowel: e.g. /nie/[nje].

This process is usually blocked after a complex onset of the form obstruent + liquid (that is, a stop or a fricative followed by /l/ or /ʁ/). 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 [ɥi], as in pluie [plɥi] ('rain'), [wa], and [wɛ̃].[39] Such data can be dealt with in different ways, for example 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 /ɥi/ and /wa/.[40][41]

Glide formation normally does not occur across morpheme boundaries in compounds like semi-aride ('semi-arid').[42] However, in colloquial registers, glide formation can be observed across morpheme or word boundaries: si elle [siɛl] ('if she') can be pronounced just like ciel [sjɛl] ('sky'), or tu as [tya] ('you have') like tua [tɥa] ('[he] killed').[43]

The glide [j] can also occur in syllable coda position, after a vowel, as in soleil [sɔlɛj] ('sun'). Here again, one can formulate a derivation from an underlying full vowel /i/, but this analysis is not always adequate, given the existence of possible minimal pairs like pays [pɛi] ('country') / paye [pɛj] ('paycheck') and abbaye [abɛi] ('abbey') / abeille [abɛj] ('bee').[44] Schane (1968) proposes an abstract analysis deriving postvocalic [j] from an underlying lateral by palatalization and glide conversion (/li//ʎ//j/).[45]


Word stress is not distinctive in French. This means that two words cannot be distinguished on the basis of stress placement alone. In fact, grammatical stress can only fall on the final full syllable of a French word (that is, the final syllable with a vowel other than schwa). Monosyllables with schwa as their only vowel (ce, de, que, etc.) are generally unstressed clitics but exceptionally may receive stress.[28]

The difference between stressed and unstressed syllables in French is less marked than in English. Vowels in unstressed syllables keep their full quality, giving rise to a syllable-timed rhythm (see Isochrony). 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 syllable unless this is a schwa).[46]

Emphatic stress

Emphatic stress is used to call attention to a specific element in a given context, for example 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.[47]

  • C'est parfaitement vrai. [sɛpaʁfɛtmɒ̃ˈvʁɛ] ('It's perfectly true.' No emphatic stress)
  • C'est parfaitement vrai. [sɛ(p)ˈpaʁfɛtmɒ̃vʁɛ] (emphatic stress on parfaitement)

For words that begin with a vowel, emphatic stress falls either on the first non-initial syllable that begins with a consonant, or on the initial syllable with the insertion of a glottal stop or a liaison consonant.

  • C'est épouvantable. [sɛte(p)ˈpuvɒ̃tabl] ('It's terrible.' Emphatic stress on second syllable of épouvantable)
  • C'est épouvantable [sɛ(t)ˈtepuvɒ̃tabl] (initial syllable with liaison consonant [t])
  • C'est épouvantable [sɛˈʔepuvɒ̃tabl] (initial syllable with glottal stop insertion)


French intonation differs substantially from that of English.[48] 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.

See also


  1. Map based on Trudgill (1974:221)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fougeron & Smith (1993:79)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:192)
  4. Adams (1975:288)
  5. Phonological Variation in French: Illustrations from Three Continents, edited by Randall Scott Gess, Chantal Lyche, Trudel Meisenburg.
  6. Wells (1989:44)
  7. Grevisse & Goosse (2011, §32, b)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Fougeron & Smith (1993:75)
  9. Grevisse & Goosse (2011, §33, b), Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:47)
  10. Recasens (2013:11–13)
  11. Fougeron & Smith (1993:74–75)
  12. Tranel (1987:149–150)
  13. Yaguello (1991), cited in Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:51)
  14. Tranel (1987:150)
  15. Tranel (1987:151–153)
  16. "Some phoneticians claim that there are two distinct as in French, but evidence from speaker to speaker and sometimes within the speech of a single speaker is too contradictory to give empirical support to this claim." Casagrande (1984:20)
  17. Postériorisation du / a /
  18. 18.0 18.1 Tranel (1987:64)
  19. "For example, some have the front [a] in casse 'breaks', and the back [ɑ] in tasse 'cup', but for others the reverse is true. There are also, of course, those who use the same vowel, either [a] or [ɑ], in both words." Tranel (1987:48)
  20. //John C. Wells// prefers the symbol /æ̃/, as the vowel has become more open in recent times:
  21. 21.0 21.1 Fougeron & Smith (1993:73)
  22. Morin (1986)
  23. Léon (1992:?)
  24. 24.0 24.1 Fougeron & Smith (1993:74)
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins 2006, p. 33-34.
  26. Hansen, Anita Berit (1998). Les voyelles nasales du français parisien moderne. Aspects linguistiques, sociolinguistiques et perceptuels des changements en cours (in French). Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 87-7289-495-4.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Oral articulation of nasal vowel in French
  28. 28.0 28.1 Anderson (1982:537)
  29. Tranel (1987:88)
  30. Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:59)
  31. Timbre du schwa en français et variation régionale : un étude comparative retrieved 14 July 2013
  32. Tranel (1987:88–105)
  33. Casagrande (1984:228–29)
  34. Anderson (1982:544–46)
  35. Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:63) for [e], TLFi, s.v. appellation for [ɛ].
  36. Tranel (1987:98–99)
  37. Walker (1984:25–27), Tranel (1987:49–51)
  38. 38.0 38.1 Walker (2001:46)
  39. The latter two correspond to orthographic ⟨oi⟩, as in trois [tʁwa] ('three'), which contrasts with disyllabic troua [tʁua] ('[he] punctured').
  40. Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:37–39)
  41. Chitoran (2002:206)
  42. Chitoran & Hualde (2007:45)
  43. Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:39)
  44. Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:39). The words pays and abbaye are more frequently pronounced [pei] and [abei].
  45. Schane (1968:57–60)
  46. Tranel (1987:194–200)
  47. Tranel (1987:200–201)
  48. Lian (1980)


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External links

de:Französische Sprache#Aussprache