French and other Romance languages: hypercorrection with "h" in English

Yendred

Senior Member
Français - France
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  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The first one is with a hiatus.
    The second one is with a glottal stop (actually two: one to start the first and another one to start the second syllable).
    The third one with an [ h ].

    To my ears as a non native speaker who has been living among French speakers for a long time, all sound natural. The second one maybe somewhat overarticulate as you would do if asked how to pronounce a word. The third one is rare.

    PS: Crossed
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    What about the word dehors? I don't hear an H in any of the pronunciations of dehors on Forvo. Can you say dehors with an H? Or does it only work before/after certain vowels?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It's bursting my ears.
    Thanks. As a non native speaker I don't have the same emotional reactions. For me it is just somewhat overarticulate but not to the extent that it hurts. It might also have to do with the special way people speak in Geneva. People generally try to avoid any specific regional accent (they certainly do not want to sound Vaudois) and overarticulation is not so rare.

    On the other hand I often hear this realisation of /h/ when French speakers speak English. As English is my main professional working language I have plenty of opportunity to listen to French speakers speaking English. All three varieties actually occur.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    ahaner pronunciation: How to pronounce ahaner in French

    Can you listen to this French word pronounced by 3 French speakers ? Do you hear "h" sounds or glottal stops ?

    It would be interesting if you could transcript the 3 pronounciations in IPA, according to what you hear
    I hear a long /a:/ for the first speaker, a weird glottal stop for the second, and an h by the third speaker.
    Of the three I prefer the first by far.


    @Red Arrow No, you can't pronounce h. You have to pronounce e.o as fast as possible, linking them together. I know it's a hard word to say. If impossible for you, rather than pronouncing the h or making a glottal stop I'd suggest pronouncing "dors" with a longer o.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I think this is a clear example of the special phonological status of interjections and their derivatives. Those are the only "words" where Russian possesses the glottal stop, and Latin possessed intervocalic /h/ (certainly Imperial Latin). This also illustrates my earlier suggestion that the relevant feature is "glottal", while fricative vs. stop are variant realisations and are perceived as the same thing by French speakers learning English.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    This also illustrates my earlier suggestion that the relevant feature is "glottal", while fricative vs. stop are variant realisations and are perceived as the same thing by French speakers learning English.
    No. Your earlier suggestion was that they can't perceive the difference and that is something completely different. In my experience, the can perceive it very well, they just ignore it. In when speaking English this results in production mistakes but not because they can't perceive or produce it. In most speech situations you have other things to worry about than how you pronounce a certain letter and those production mistakes that don't matter in your own language are the most frequent lapses you make.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    No. Your earlier suggestion was that they can't perceive the difference and that is something completely different. In my experience, the can perceive it very well, they just ignore it. In when speaking English this results in production mistakes but not because they can't perceive or produce it. In most speech situations you have other things to worry about than how you pronounce a certain letter and those production mistakes that don't matter in your own language are the most frequent lapses you make.
    I've explained twice that I think they can physically perceive it and reproduce~imitate it, but they can't map it in terms of a phonemic contrast, and as a result they "ignore" it in actual speech, whether listening or speaking. This type of thing is tested for with repetition tests: listeners are given a task to listen to a sequence of different "words" (aha aʔa aa aʔa) and then give the correct sequence, ideally by some non-linguistic means such as visual shapes or colours (red-blue-green-blue); or just simply to repeat it verbally. Those who don't hear the difference in terms of phonemes will have a high error rate in this task.

    When you say "a certain letter" - where "letter" can be substituted for "phoneme" - you're basically agreeing with me. The difference between /w/ and /v/ with German speakers is that the "glottal", in addition to having the two allophones, cannot be mapped onto any French segment. awa and ava are different from aa for a German even if they don't differentiate between awa and ava phonemically: /w~v/ contrasts with zero /Ø/; aa, aha, and aʔa all mean the same thing to a Frenchman: the glottal sound, whatever it is, is non-distinctive, it does not contrast with zero but is an allophone of it (as I write here).
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    We are talking here about French speakers speaking English not French. When you speak a foreign language you can adjust to the phonology of that other language but where it doesn't match those of your own language you are most likely to make production mistakes, especially when you worry about other things than pronunciation. I know this from myself. I often hear myself makings mistakes in English when struggling to explain something in a meeting which I would never make in a recital, e.g., were I can concentrate on my pronunciation. And that's what I experienced around English /h/ with French speakers as well.

    There are other phonemic contrasts in English which French speakers really have problems perceiving and producing. The difference between closed and open i is an example of this. But mistakes around the English /h/ are mostly just production mistakes even for French speakers with only moderate level of proficiency in English.

    This is again my experience from a predominantly English language working environment in Banking and IT.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Yes, and the precise topic is "why do French speakers stick superfluous aitches to beginnings of English words". No matter how concentrated on the topic, you won't find a German adding an /w/ or /v/ to beginnings of English words, but they will confuse the two. I'm proposing that when French speakers add superfluous aitches, they're doing the same exact thing, but where Germans have /w~v/, the French have /h~ʔ/; and where Germans treat /w~v/ as a separate phoneme, the French treat it as a way to signal that there's no phoneme, but there is a word boundary, which is what the glottal stop is for in English. So they're trying to say /that glottal thing the English stick to the beginnings of their words/, but end up saying /h/ just like the Germans end up saying /v/ when trying to say /w/ or vice versa.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Agreed. But this doesn't mean they can't perceive or produce the difference when concentrating on it. This is different with the open/close i contrast, which many French speakers can't perceive or produce even when concentrating.

    Germans have similar difficulties distinguishing minimal pairs like bet and bat or, in American English, collar and color. But when being told they mix up /v/ and /w/ they have no problem recognising it and correcting their pronunciation.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Agreed. But this doesn't mean they can't perceive or produce the difference when concentrating on it. This is different with the open/close i contrast, which many French speakers can't perceive or produce even when concentrating.

    Germans have similar difficulties distinguishing minimal pairs like bet and bat or, in American English, collar and color. But when being told they mix up /v/ and /w/ they have no problem recognising it and correcting their pronunciation.
    Yes, I think the difference must be in the underlying representation and the "hacks" that are possible to create a larger difference in it; Russians, for example, can treat /w/ as a vowel that doesn't quite make a syllable, which works because English has few if any hiatus sequences with /u/ as the first unstressed element. The bate vowel is a vowel-consonant sequence /ɛj/ to us. You can't hack the bet-bat contrast this way, so Russians mix them up even though we have the vowel of bat allophonically between two soft consonants, as in пять.
     
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    TitTornade

    Senior Member
    The first one is with a hiatus.
    The second one is with a glottal stop (actually two: one to start the first and another one to start the second syllable).
    The third one with an [ h ].

    To my ears as a non native speaker who has been living among French speakers for a long time, all sound natural. The second one maybe somewhat overarticulate as you would do if asked how to pronounce a word. The third one is rare.

    PS: Crossed

    I agree with your interpretation of the 3 pronounciations... with my French ears.
    For me, only the first [a'a] and the second [ʔaʔa] are natural. The second one is overarticulated, I agree.
    The third one [aha] is not natural at all :) I still laugh after listening to this prononciation... A kind of hypercorrection with "h" in English French. Really weird.

    Actually "ahaner" is a very rare word in French, but this situation with two "a" or two vowels exists in : "à Amsterdam", "à Angers", ... And glottal stops appear sometimes.
    I listened to a journalist's prononciation, for checking if such situations occur and I heard him proncouncing "a essayé" with global stops [ʔaʔe...] after few minutes

    I hear a long /a:/ for the first speaker, a weird glottal stop for the second, and an h by the third speaker.
    Of the three I prefer the first by far.

    Do you hear a long /a:/ or a hiatus [a'a] for the first pronounciation ? Which should be the regular one

    What about the word dehors? I don't hear an H in any of the pronunciations of dehors on Forvo. Can you say dehors with an H? Or does it only work before/after certain vowels?

    No, saying an "h" in French is not natural, except when laughing ha ha ha !! ☺
    In "dehors", I think a glottal stop should be unnatural, too !
     

    Ansku89

    Member
    Finnish
    That might have been true 80 years ago when most Germans had no exposure to spoken English but not now. And then you would expect errors like vhat instead or what to be the more frequent ones but contrary that Hollywood movie stereotypes, the opposite mistake (adwisor and SUW) is the much more frequent one. The problem is compounded by the fact that in some regions the sound shift in modern High German from <w>=[w] to <w>=[v] is not yet completed and the prevalent realization is somewhere in the middle (<w>=[ʋ], as in Dutch).
    Interesting. This is the same mistake that Finnish people often do, but your explanation doesn't fit Finnish at all. We don't have any kind of w sound, just v that is spelled with a v, and if w happens to show up somewhere (like names, WC or www) we often just call it v and even mix it with v in the alphabetic order. Often if a name is spelled with w it is (or is seen as) an attempt to make the name look more fancy and/or international. So in a Finnish mind, w is a fancy foreign version of v.

    Enter English. For decades now, pretty much everybody has learned English at school, so we know that w and v are two different sounds in English and can pronounce w. But if you have more experience in reading and writing English than hearing and speaking, you remember spellings better than pronunciations. With Finnish background it's easy to forget which one you saw in a word, v or w, and I think it's a psychological thing that people tend to err to the side of more foreign letters in a foreign word. This is how you end up with adwisors and wawes and things like that.

    We also don't originally have sounds b, d, g and don't use c, q, z or x except in loan words (and d also otherwise because of some language historical stuff that I don't start to explain here, but it's also a more recent addition to Finnish sounds and doesn't exist in all dialects). So both when writing English, and writing Latin/Greek-based loan words in Finnish, people tend to both mix up between these "foreign" letters (like c-g-q) and use them where p, t, k would be correct. However this easily gives an uneducated impression and for example ranting about "brobaganda" on internet forums will definitely make you a laughing stock...
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Interesting. This is the same mistake that Finnish people often do, but your explanation doesn't fit Finnish at all.
    I think preciesly the same explanation is valid for Finnish, indeed even more so. The Finnish v is a very unambiguous approximant [ʋ], which is the sound between the English fricative [v] and the approximant [w]; therefore even if a Finn assigns what English spells as v to what Finnish spells as v, the English [w] still ends up being too similar to it to be able to consistently distinguish it - it basically only differs from [ʋ] in that the back of the tongue is raised towards the velum, as when saying the Finnish /u/ or /l/.
     

    Terio

    Senior Member
    Français (Québec)
    ahaner pronunciation: How to pronounce ahaner in French

    Can you listen to this French word pronounced by 3 French speakers ? Do you hear "h" sounds or glottal stops ?

    It would be interesting if you could transcript the 3 pronounciations in IPA, according to what you hear

    Ahaner has tow a's in hiatus. That's unususal in French. And it's not a word you use daily. In normal speech, the two a's are likely to merge. But if you ask someone to pronounce it carefully, the speaker will find a way or another to split them into two disctict syllables. The result can be what you call a glottal stop or a pronounced h.

    H is not totally unusual in French. You can hear it in interjections (Santa Claus's Ho! Ho! Ho!) and sometimes to emphasize : hénorme (instead of énorme : huge).
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Ahaner has two a's in hiatus. That's unususal in French. And it's not a word you use daily.
    The word ahaner is unusual, but the two a's in hiatus are quite common, as for example in:
    Va à la boulangerie pour acheter du pain.
    Ça a été ton examen ?
    Tu ne peux pas aller jouer, tu as à faire tes devoirs.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    The word ahaner is unusual, but the two a's in hiatus are quite common, as for example in:
    Va à la boulangerie pour acheter du pain.
    Ça a été ton examen ?
    Tu ne peux pas aller jouer, tu as à faire tes devoirs.
    I'm not sure it's a hiatus, just two pulses linked closely together. No stopping to take a breath.

    I've never heard ahaner until now.
    Interesting it comes from Spanish afanar.
    Try saying this example sentence! Asa est reparti au trot dans la pente. Shed a suivi en ahanant.
    En ahanant is hard to say
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Shed a suivi en ahanant.
    En ahanant is hard to say
    Maybe also because of the alternation of nasals and non nasals?
    For me as a native, it's not hard to say, but it sounds a bit weird (also because of the rarity of the verb ahaner), and it may not be understood immediately by a listener. I guess if it's pronounced fast, one can easily hear something more common like "en un an".
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure it's a hiatus, just two pulses linked closely together. No stopping to take a breath.
    Stopping to take a breath is the opposite of hiatus, which is a run-on of vowels. English speakers do indeed tend to obliviously glottal stop in the middle of it when speaking foreign languages or pronouncing exotic words, but you're unlikely to hear a *reʔinterpret, *doʔing or *utopiʔa.
     

    TitTornade

    Senior Member
    The word ahaner is unusual, but the two a's in hiatus are quite common, as for example in:
    Va à la boulangerie pour acheter du pain.
    Ça a été ton examen ?
    Tu ne peux pas aller jouer, tu as à faire tes devoirs.
    "ça a été..." is generally prononced with hiatus between the 3 vowels /a'a'e/
    But, if you listen to forvo : Prononciation de ça a été : Comment prononcer ça a été en Français

    One of the 4 persons uses glottal stops /aʔaʔe/, which is a bit weird for me ☺

    I concede and I said it, "ahaner" is not common at all, but I used it as an example : hiatus, glottal stop or "h" have no phonemic meaning in French.

    H is not totally unusual in French. You can hear it in interjections (Santa Claus's Ho! Ho! Ho!) and sometimes to emphasize : hénorme (instead of énorme : huge).

    I think my Santa Claus says "O! O! O!" or "ʔO! ʔO! ʔO!" and I emphasize with ʔénorme ! The only "h" I use may be in laughing "ha! ha! ha!"
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Check out en haut (Domingloup) and these two phrases with it: #1, #2. I never noticed glottal stops in French before - not that I've listened to a lot of it, mind you; nor do they seem to be the same glottal stops as what German uses, i.e. they aren't consonantal, but real speech-pauses, which is also possible in Russian. I surmise the hiatus-filling glottal stop appears because en is pronounced without the /n/ before the 'aspirated h'. Can you imagine a real [h] for the written h in that combination?
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Domigloup's pronunciation (with glottal stop) is not natural. This was also the case with another record.

    Can you imagine a real h for the written h in that combination?
    No, only the hiatus is natural. Any other pronunciation is forced, if not erroneous.
     
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    TitTornade

    Senior Member
    Domigloup's pronunciation (with glottal stop) is not natural. This was also the case with another record.


    No, only the hiatus is natural. Any other pronunciation is forced, if not erroneous.
    Listen to a journalist speaking on the TV or on the radio, you'll hear glottal stops if you are patient☺☺☺

    I recently saw a program about Mitterrand's second wife, Anne Pingeot. Both voices (male and female) said distinctly and several times "à Anne" : /ʔaʔan/.
    I agree, it is not the most natural prononciation, but it is quite common, to my mind, when trying to speak very clearly (e.g. on Forvo, as found by Sobakus).

    Another example with the international group "Aha" : A-ha pronunciation: How to pronounce A-ha in Norwegian, French
    Of course no "h"... but glottal stops for these guys...

    I can remember my foreign friends and colleagues laughing at the way we, French, prononce the adhesive products name "UHU" : /y'y/ or /ʔyʔy/ ☺
     
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    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Confusingly (for English-speakers), French people generally write ''ah ah ah''.
    Don't worry it's confusing for French too, but strictly speaking it's not the same.
    Ha! (with voiced H) is for a laugh, and Ah! (without voiced H) is for a surprise.
    The subtleties of onomatopoeia :p
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ah as an exclamation of surprise, ah is attested as of the 12th century (Chrétien de Troyes). AT that time, French certainly had an audible h. The pronunciation might have been [aʰ] or [ax].

    BTW: Did you mean audible h or really voiced h?
     
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