As any university student of French is all too aware, understanding what seem is represented by a specified letter in a certain phrase or context will not be usually a straightforward make any difference. In this post, we target one particular certain and deceptively tough region of issues: deciding which seem to pronounce to the letter ‘e’ in French.
The (rather) easy situation: ‘e’ which has a written accent
French has two ‘e’ Appears that are often distinguished that has a written accent. In these scenarios, the endeavor of deciding how you can pronounce ‘e’ is generally a lot easier. When published by using a so termed grave accent (è), the letter represents an “open” ‘e’ sound. That is, an ‘e’ sound pronounced With all the mouth reasonably wide open along with the tongue reasonably very low inside the mouth, comparable to the ‘e’ sound from the English term “established”. This same open ‘e’ seem also tends to be the one particular utilized when the ‘e’ is published using a circumflex (as in fête).
When penned by using a so called “acute” accent (é), this ordinarily implies a “near” e: that is definitely an ‘e’ sound pronounced with the mouth considerably less open as well as tongue somewhat higher while in the mouth. It is analogous into the English “ay” vowel (as in “say”, “pay out”) as pronounced in Northern English accents. (In contrast to the “ay” vowel of a number of other English accents, however, It’s not necessarily a diphthong.)
More difficult scenarios: ‘e’ without a prepared accent
The more challenging situations take place when ‘e’ appears without a created accent. According to the context, the letter ‘e’ could then stand for possibly the open or shut ‘e’, a distinct vowel completely, or no vowel in the slightest degree.
Circumstances the place the vowel is frequently the “shut” e vowel, as if prepared é, incorporate the term endings ez and er (where the ‘r’ is just not pronounced, for instance dernier or the infinitives of er verbs) or just before ss or sc (as in dessin, descendre). In “purposeful” phrases: et as well as plural articles or blog posts (les, des, mes, etcetera.), the ‘e’ vowel is almost always pronounced é.
Cases where by the vowel is generally the “open” e vowel (as though prepared è) are typically in advance of a double consonant apart from “ss” (jette, appelle) or two consonants (e.g. fileestival). When an unaccented ‘e’ is the 1st letter of the phrase (as in examen), It is additionally generally pronounced è.
Then, you can find scenarios, usually on the tip of the word, in which the choice of vowel isn’t in fact preset. Among the list of two pronunciations (é or è) is applied, but either could be preferred. A standard circumstance would be the et ending of effet or livret. A more conservative pronunciation has the open up è vowel. However, quite a few speakers would make use of the shut é vowel today. (This in fact extends to other scenarios wherever an ‘e’ vowel occurs in pronunciation, but within the spelling another mixture of letters is made use of, e.g. the ais of anglais, or even the aie of craie.)
The situation from the schwa or “neutral” vowel
Arguably by far the most complicated circumstance is from the so named schwa. This can be a kind of ‘e’ vowel that is often pronounced With all the tongue inside a central or “neutral” posture, just like the English word “the”. It is mostly unstressed and you find it from the French word le among the other conditions.
(In addition to when to pronounce it, the actual pronunciation of the vowel is likewise a complex concern. In reality, many speakers nowadays pronounce this vowel like a French ‘eu’ vowel (both rounded or unrounded), or pronounce it in a different way below various conditions. For that reasons of this short article, we gloss about these aspects and assume that it is a central vowel much like the vowel of your English word “the”.)
This “neutral” vowel is normally pronounced for just a letter ‘e’ in conditions not pointed out over. So wherever:
the ‘e’ has no composed accent;
it does not come about before a double consonant or many consonants;
It’s not necessarily Portion of among the other letter combos (e.g. ez, et) that indicate it’s pronounced as either é or è.
Samples of an ‘e’ symbolizing a schwa are classified as the ‘e’ vowels of semaine, demajor, (il) mange, (nous) venons, presque and in truth the ‘e’ vowels of le and je.
What is particularly complex with regard to the schwa vowel is that it is not normally pronounced (or, place yet another way, that it is sometimes “deleted”). It is actually further than the scope of this article and without a doubt, could well be outside of the scope of a PhD thesis on the subject to enter all of the main points. But here are some guidelines of thumb:
the schwa is always deleted immediately after another vowel (so while in the terms vie, crient or allée, there’s no probability of pronouncing the ‘e’);
it really is usually deleted ahead of A further vowel too, which can be partially why you say l’homme as opposed to *le homme, but also implies that presque un an is pronounced “presqu’ un an”, or that comme un frère is pronounced “comm’ un frère”;
or else around the stop of a word or phrase (il donne, le ministre), a ultimate e is virtually usually deleted, but may be stored or “partly” pronounced for emphasis.
in the extremely very first syllable of the sentence or phrase, a schwa is usually deleted in normal speech, even if that generates some “unusual” seem combos: so e.g. je t’aime is frequently pronounced “j’t’aime” or “ch’t’aime”;
in many other circumstances in the middle of a word, sentence or phrase, speakers keep or delete the schwa to be able to steer clear of “akward combos of Seems” or make factors “much easier to pronounce”. So, such as, they would usually delete the schwa in la semaine (they understand the phrase as “flowing” a little bit greater like that) but preserve it in neuf semaines (they perceive it as “uncomfortable” to get two consonants ‘file’ and ‘s’ collectively with out then possessing a schwa ahead of the upcoming consonant).
We’re obviously glossing around a variety of facts right here: e.g. about what would make an “akward” blend of sounds in French (or even more formally, what linguists refer to as the phonotactics of your language). Element of turning into fluent in French implies getting utilized to these various advanced designs. But the above mentioned policies of thumb are Nevertheless a place to begin.