French phonology: time for a change?

Nino83

Senior Member
Italian
Hello everybody.

I noted that most book of Standard French language use phonetic transcriptions which are not updated, reflecting the way French was spoken by media about 30 or 40 years ago.

Everybody knows that the Northern French /ɔ/ is quite different from that of other Romance languages, because it is central, IPA [ɞ], for example porte and port which are pronounced [pɞʁt] and [pɞʁ] everyday on French tv and radio, but also /o/ is advanced to [o̟] or even [ɵ̠], côte [kɵ̠t].

The same for nasals vowels, /ɛ̃/ is [ɐ̟̃] or [ã], bien, [bjã], /ɑ̃/ is [ɔ̟̃], vraiment, [vʁɛmɔ̟̃], very different from the French Quebec [vʁɛmã] (in the same page), /ɔ̃/ is [õ̟], montrons, [mõ̟tʁõ̟], and the merger between /œ̃/ and /ɛ̃/.

It is known that the current mediatic accent (page 21) is based on Parisian accent (which has fronter or more central back vowels and different nasal vowels) and that it is used everyday on French media.

This leads to mispronunciation by Italian, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan students who think their vowels, /ɔ/, /o/, /ɛ̃/, /ɑ̃/, /ɔ̃/, are the same of the French ones, while it isn't so.

Don't you think it is time to differenciate the different pronunciations of French even in books?
The difference between Nothern French, Quebec French and Southern French vowels is enough big to dedicate a different chapter on books, like it is today for European and Brazilian Portuguese.
 
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  • merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I really don't see/hear any of those changes in vowel sounds you are talking about except for the merger of /œ̃/ and /ɛ̃/ in some Parisian speakers.

    These "/ɛ̃/ is [ɐ̟̃] or [ã], bien, [bjã], /ɑ̃/ is [ɔ̟̃], vraiment, [vʁɛmɔ̟̃]", certainly not. Arnaud says "vraimont" and it does sound extremely weird. The Canadian says "vraimaint" with /ɛ̃/, also strange.

    The open and closed "o" sounds also match the IPA symbols. Spl0uf is a standard speaker in my opinion. All the words he pronounces are exemplary.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    These "/ɛ̃/ is [ɐ̟̃] or [ã], bien, [bjã], /ɑ̃/ is [ɔ̟̃], vraiment, [vʁɛmɔ̟̃]", certainly not. Arnaud says "vraimont" and it does sound extremely weird. The Canadian says "vraimaint" with /ɛ̃/, also strange.
    Here I think Nico has a point. The blanc vowel is indeed rounded from [ɑ̃] to [ɒ̃] in modern standard French French and the bon vowel raised from [ɔ̃] to [õ]. That is hard to deny and that leaves [ɔ̃] a bit in the limbo if it is closer to the blanc or to the bon vowel and the discussion is relevant as it is confusing for learners.

    The open and closed "o" sounds also match the IPA symbols. Spl0uf is a standard speaker in my opinion. All the words he pronounces are exemplary.
    Here I agree with you. There might be differences in the precise positioning of the vowels in different Romance languages. But when do vowels ever match 100% between language or dialects? As there are no phoneme boundaries involved, I see no advantage in splitting hairs here.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    On nasal vowels I agree with Canepari, it's a mid-open (mid-)back rounded vowel, but I would agree with you if with [ɒ̃] you mean a vowel equal to the Southern British English /ɒ/ (which is, in IPA terms, an [ɔ]). It surely isn't a fully open (F1 > 650) back rounded vowel in Northern accents.

    John Wells says the same thing:

    "Admittedly, the vowel of bon is typically rather closer than cardinal 6 ɔ, and one could certainly justify the choice of an alternative symbol õ. The final vowel of mexicain, on the other hand, is typically slightly opener than cardinal 3 ɛ, and one could justify the choice of an alternative symbol æ̃ (which is what I write in LPD in such words)."

    http://phonetic-blog.blogspot.it/2010/07/french-nasalized-vowels.html

    In IPA symbols, there's no great difference between [ɐ̟̃] (advanced [ɐ]) and [æ̃].

    The open and closed "o" sounds also match the IPA symbols. Spl0uf is a standard speaker in my opinion. All the words he pronounces are exemplary.

    If Northern French /ɔ/ and /o/ match IPA symbols, then Italian, Galician, Portuguese and Catalan /ɔ/ and /o/ are more back, so a new IPA symbol is needed for these sounds.
    Compare French porte with porta (It), porta (Pt), port (Ca), porta (Gl).

    In this page there is, in order, the word "port" said by a Catalan and by a French speaker.
    I hear a huge difference.

    It is attested also by this work.

    Also John Wells, see phonetic blog, agrees:

    "They are, however, suspiciously similar to a subset of the vowels of standard French as spoken in Jones’s day — though the quality of French ɔ, at least, was and is considerably different from that of cardinal ɔ. In passing we may note that the articulatory-auditory theory behind Jones’s cardinal vowel scheme is no longer accepted.)"

    Considerably different.

    Another work says:

    "the French vowel is centralized, while the English vowel is full back" (page 19).

    There are, more or less, 200 Hz of difference in F2 between the Northern and the Southern pronunciation of the /ɔ/.

    In this study it is said that:

    "Martinet (1969) analysait cette avancée du /ɔ/ vers [œ] en termes de rendement fonctionnel (relativement faible et sans grande incidence sur la compréhension pour l’opposition /ɔ/~/œ/). Déjà pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, à partir des témoignages d’officiers dans un camp de prisonniers, il avait observé l’émergence de cette variante antériorisée ou centralisée du /ɔ/ chez les locuteurs non méridionaux (Martinet, 1945). Il ouvrait ainsi des pistes pour des études empiriques et théoriques. Si l’on s’en rapporte à l’histoire, d’ailleurs, un mot latin comme florire a naturellement donné le français fleurir ; le verbe florir (d’où florissant) n’est qu’un archaïsme littéraire. On a d’autre part en synchronie le doublet senior~seigneur (d’où seigneurial alors que l’adjectif correspondant à directeur est directorial), des alternances morphologiques comme mort~meurt, des erreurs comme *je vous serais gré pour je vous saurais gré, *contreverse pour controverse et petit rond pour potiron, qui appartient aujourd’hui au langage enfantin. Nous avons comparé cette tendance à l’antériorisation avec un phénomène symétrique : la postériorisation du schwa que des fautes d’orthographe d’enfants permettent également de dégager, reflétant des confusions voire une neutralisation partielle de l’opposition entre re- et ro- dans des mots comme reblochon (Malderez, 1995)."

    In this book at page 139 it is said that the first work of Martinet about /ɔ/ fronting was written in 1945 (and that it was criticized as "working class" speech during the XIX century).

    Martinet said that this change could be favoured by the fact that in those speakers who had two /a/, i.e [a] and [ɑ], the presence of the open back vowel (in words like bas) pushed /ɔ/ to a central position.
    So, this feature is not so recent.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Here I think Nico has a point. The blanc vowel is indeed rounded from [ɑ̃] to [ɒ̃] in modern standard French French and the bon vowel raised from [ɔ̃] to [õ]. That is hard to deny and that leaves [ɔ̃] a bit in the limbo if it is closer to the blanc or to the bon vowel and the discussion is relevant as it is confusing for learners.

    Rounded for [ɑ̃]? Quite the contrary, the mouth is wide open: Temps , en attendant. It is tightly rounded for [ɔ̃]: Thon, menton, entrons.

    Nino83 said:
    If Northern French /ɔ/ and /o/ match IPA symbols, then Italian, Galician, Portuguese and Catalan /ɔ/ and /o/ are more back, so a new IPA symbol is needed for these sounds.
    Compare French porte with porta (It), porta (Pt), port (Ca), porta (Gl).

    In this page there is, in order, the word "port" said by a Catalan and by a French speaker.
    I hear a huge difference.
    I do not hear much difference at all in the quality of the open /ɔ/ sounds in porte/porta. The difference between the Catalan and French speaker in port is that the Catalan pronounces it quite short, in staccato Spanish style, whereas the open o before a final /r/ in French is always very much elongated.

    Frenchmen and Spaniard have well defined accents in one another's language. When a Frenchmen speaks Spanish the /o/ is pronounced with more muscular tension (as all vowels in French are) and is perfectly closed. A Spaniard speaking French pronounces the closed /o/ in rose more open and lax than a Frenchmen would and causes misunderstanding at times. The French distinguish /ɔ/ and /o/ very precisely. A Spanish o is in between but closer to /o/. Also articulated as fast as possible.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Rounded for [ɑ̃]? Quite the contrary, the mouth is wide open
    Of course it is wide open. [ɒ] always is. The difference between [ɒ] and [ɑ] is about the lips ([ɑ]=stretched, [ɒ]=projecting), not about the mouth. You can have closed and open vowels rounded and non-rounded. Those are independent dimensions.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Merquiades, to me all Northern French /ɑ̃/ are rounded and /ɔ̃/ are mid-closed.
    And Northern French /ɔ/ is centralized.
    And potiron of spl0uf is clearly [pɞtiʁõ] (or even [pœtiʁõ]).
    And it is surely different from the Italian (and other Romance languages) /ɔ/.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    And potiron of spl0uf is clearly [pɞtiʁõ] (or even [pœtiʁõ]).
    And it is surely different from the Italian (and other Romance languages) /ɔ/.
    You didn't mention you are talking about unstressed syllables. That changes things completely. The complete vowel system only exist for stressed syllables. It is not quite as in English where almost all unstressed vowels are Schwas but the tendency is unmistakable.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Of course it is wide open. [ɒ] always is. The difference between [ɒ] and [ɑ] is about the lips ([ɑ]=stretched, [ɒ]=projecting), not about the mouth. You can have closed and open vowels rounded and non-rounded. Those are independent dimensions.
    PS: Watch here between 0:12 and 0:16 where he says [ɔ̃], [ɑ̃] and [ɛ̃] in sequence. Compare the rounded shapes of his lips of [ɔ̃] and [ɑ̃] with the stretched lips of [ɛ̃].

    Compare this with the stretched lips of this Lady from Québec when she says France or français.

    That is the difference between the rounded and non-rounded blanc-vowel.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Bern, I hear the vowel /ɑ̃/ in vraiment of Pat91 and other Northeners like the one on this page, (the word "sang") i.e [ɔ̃].
    That of the video you linked is the Standard French /ɑ̃/ we find in books, but it is not the Parisian /ɑ̃/.
    The same for the /ɔ̃/. Listen to "pont" in the page I linked.
    In your page even /ɛ̃/ is pronounced "standard", not like in bien (by spl0uf).
    It's not only me who hears these sounds, but also John Wells, Luciano Canepari, and so on.
    About Northern French /ɔ/ and /o/, expecially /ɔ/, I must disagree with merquiades. Italian /ɔ/ is full back, Northern French /ɔ/ is clearly central (also in this case, I'm not the only one, John Wells, Luciano Canepari, Martinet, Philippe Boula de Mareüil and so on).
    I don't say [pɞrta] (like spl0uf does)! :D

    About Quebec French /ɑ̃/, I hear it like a Southern French /ɑ̃/, i.e it is unrounded, open, and central.

    Another comparison.
    Compare vraiment of gwen_bzh (Northern French) with ho of dario1977 (Italian), and vraiment of Bicaraphzu (Canadian) with ha of glen (Italian)
    They have the same sounds ([ɔ] in the first case and [a] in the second).
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    PS: Watch here between 0:12 and 0:16 where he says [ɔ̃], [ɑ̃] and [ɛ̃] in sequence. Compare the rounded shapes of his lips of [ɔ̃] and [ɑ̃] with the stretched lips of [ɛ̃].

    Compare this with the stretched lips of this Lady from Québec when she says France or français.

    That is the difference between the rounded and non-rounded blanc-vowel.
    Yes, the man in the video is speaking the way most people do in France. I'll certainly agree with that, but I do not see how the [ɑ̃] is a rounded vowel or that he rounds the lips. At any rate it is definitely far from [ɔ̃]. The Quebecker sounds to me like her [ɑ̃] is moving towards [ɛ̃].
    Watching it again it just looks like he opens up his mouth to say France. He is neither spreading apart his lips nor rounding them. It's very lax compared to [ɔ̃]

    Nino83 said:
    I don't say [pɞrta] (like spl0uf does)!
    But he clearly says /pɔʁt/! It's not at all a central sound. It's just below /o/. It might not be exactly the vowel in "ho" but it is very close. There may be things people don't pronounce well but "mort" and "meurt" are rigourously distinguised. Some American learners might associate "botte" with "but", and "phoque" with "fuck", but they are really quite different.

    Going back to the original discussion of whether we ought to change the symbols for standard French. Absolutely not. You will find different variations of speech in every region throughout the Francophone world, diverging a little, a lot or none from the standard. It can be regional, based on social class or even be a personal way of talking. But the standard still is an idealized way of speaking that educated people try to adhere to as much as they can. It is clear that the standard in French is used as such and is far from being outdated. And from what I see here, much much much more so than in Italian, German or English.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    but I do not see how the [ɑ̃] is a rounded vowel or that he rounds the lips
    You cannot see the difference between this (rounded)
    blanc-vowel.jpg

    and this (stretched)
    vin-vowel.jpg

    lip shape? I am sorry, but this is extremely hard to believe.

    Here for reference a non-rounded [ɑ] from a BrE speaker:
    father.jpg


    If you can't see the difference in lip shape between the first and this picture then I have to give up.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Bernd, I hear the vowel /ɑ̃/ in vraiment of Pat91 and other Northeners like the one on this page, (the word "sang") i.e [ɔ̃].
    I have concentrated on "arnaud" (who got the 2 votes). Here is a contrast of his pronunctionation of /mɔ̃/ and /mɑ̃/ respectively (from vraiment you linked to and from his pronunciation of Luc Montagnier; the first syllable of Montagnier bears secondary stress, so I think the comparison is not perfect but still valid). Neither of them is a pure [ɔ̃]. The first is a lowered [õ] and the second is a [ɒ̃].

    I agree with you that the variations of the /ɔ̃/ - /ɑ̃/ distinction are quite complex. Should I ever manage to understand how native speakers really distinguish these sound or finf a native speaker who can explain this to me, I'll let you know.:)
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Neither of them is a pure [ɔ̃]. The first is a lowered [õ] and the second is a [ɒ̃].

    I think we agree on nasal vowels.
    Seeing that you hear my /ɔ/ like an [ɒ], we can agree on the fact that the Parisian [ɒ̃] is like my (Italian) [ɔ̃] (which is equal to the /ɔ/ I linked above, ho). :)

    Now we could concentrate on Parisian /ɔ/, which I think is more advanced than Italian, Iberian and Southern French /ɔ/.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    You cannot see the difference between this (rounded)
    View attachment 16044
    and this (stretched)
    View attachment 16045
    lip shape? I am sorry, but this is extremely hard to believe.

    Here for reference a non-rounded [ɑ] from a BrE speaker:
    View attachment 16046

    If you can't see the difference in lip shape between the first and this picture then I have to give up.
    Ok, if you consider that rounding. My idea of rounding is with a closed mouth with tension, like for [y] or [o].
    In La Prononciation du Français International, they agree with you.
    The nasal vowel [ɑ̃] corresponds to the low back vowel [ɑ] of basse and pâtes. Open the mouth wide, while rounding your lips very slightly. Raise the back of your tongue towards the pharyngeal wall as for [ɑ]. Let the breath escape through the nose.
    In order to pronounce [ɔ̃] round your lips and push them forward, with an opening a little bit larger than for [o]. Keep the tip of the tongue in contact with the back of the lower incisors, and raise the back of the tongue high and deep toward the pharyngeal wall. Let the breath escape through the nose.

    Arnaud is not a good model. He clearly says "vraimont". Any of the speakers saying lent sound standard. Compare that with long.

    If you want a description of [o]
    Keep the tip of your tongue behind the back of the lower incisors. Raise the back of your tongue toward the uvula, bunching its very rear toward the pharyngeal wall. Round your lips tightly and protrude them, leaving an opening just large enough for a pencil to go through.
    [ɔ]
    Round your lips, but not as much as your [o], and drop your jaw so that the tongue height will also be lower than for [o]. [ɔ] is longer and more open than [o]. [ɔ] always occurs in stressed, closed syllables.
    Minimum pairs: côte-cotte, nôtre-notre, Aude-ode, paume-pomme, rauque-roque, saule-sol, saute-sotte, beaune-bonne.

    [ø] and [œ]
    Both [ø] and [œ] are front rounded mid vowels. For [ø], round your lips and push them out as for [o]. Push the blade of your tongue upward toward the palate, as for [e]. For [œ], drop your jaw slightly, creating more room between the palate and the tongue. The lips are less rounded than for [ø]. In a stressed open syllable only [ø] is possible. In a stressed closed syllable [œ] is the normal vowel. It is lengthened before n, l, r, and j.

    Some minumum pairs [ɔ] and [œ]
    corps-coeur, or-heure, sort-soeur, port/porc-peur, mort-meurt, bord-beurre, volent-veulent, sol-seul.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ok, if you consider that rounding. My idea of rounding is with a closed mouth with tension, like for [y] or [o].
    Rounding is an independent dimension of vowel quality. It is neither related to closedness nor to tenseness. Take the minimal pair fleur and flair in French. There are only separated by rounding. All other qualities are roughly the same. Or take the vowels of fleur and pré. Here the non-rounded é is more closed and tenser than the rounded eu.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Rounding is an independent dimension of vowel quality. It is neither related to closedness nor to tenseness. Take the minimal pair fleur and flair in French. There are only separated by rounding. All other qualities are roughly the same. Or take the vowels of fleur and pré. Here the non-rounded é is more closed and tenser than the rounded eu.

    In general you're right, for example four is more rounded than book and more open at the same time.
    In this specific case, fleur is central, F2 1400 while flair is fully fronted F2 = 1700.

    Anyway, phonologists say that Northern French /ɔ/ has F2 > 200 Hz, i.e it is more central and I think that feature is clear in spl0ur's pronunciation.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    1. There is no relevant difference between the two vowels except rounding. Everything else is free variation.
    2. Formants are not comparable between rounded and non-rounded vowel same formats do not correspond to same openness and frontness levels. Rounding lowers all format frequencies. This is e.g. the reason why French and Germans mishear the central non-rounded vowel of BrE "word" for the rounded front-vowel [œ].
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I noted that most book of Standard French language use phonetic transcriptions which are not updated, reflecting the way French was spoken by media about 30 or 40 years ago.

    I think the problem here is the increasing awareness of the findings of linguists when they are in descriptive mode and an increasing willingness to accept what were once perceived as non-standard pronunciations. If we go back 30 or 40 it was then the case that the phonetic transcriptions used by dictionaries and text books only reflected the pronunciation of a minority of native French speakers. Going back 40 years not every native French speaker make a distinction between blanc and blond. Dictionaries and text books are more or less obliged, if they are going to be useful, to fix onto a single set of values. If they stick to what was used 30 or 40 years ago it is no doubt because (a) there are still going to be people who speak that way and speaking that way is not going to be perceived as wrong and (b) whatever they decide is now standard pronunciation someone is going to disagree and probably vehemently. If it is accepted that a variety of pronunciations are capable of being standard dictionaries and text books still have to compromise and leave detailed descriptions of regional and social variations to other volumes.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I think the problem here is the increasing awareness of the findings of linguists when they are in descriptive mode and an increasing willingness to accept what were once perceived as non-standard pronunciations. If we go back 30 or 40 it was then the case that the phonetic transcriptions used by dictionaries and text books only reflected the pronunciation of a minority of native French speakers.

    Yes, Hulalessar, I can agree with you.
    The more fronted /ɔ/ was just present during 1800 in the speech of the Parisian working class, but there is a new fact, i.e during the last 30-40 years, this pronunciation was adopted by Parisian middle class and now it is used also among journalists.
    It is not considered a mistake and it is common, even on France 24.
    It is so spread that Canepari names it "mediatic pronunciation" (like he names "mediatic" Estuary English and General American, which are the most common accents used on tv) but he is the only one to do so (but also John Wells agree on /ɔ/ and nasal vowels).
    Other books ignore these changes (Northern French /ɔ/, nasal vowel shift).
    Probably it is too soon, but when one watches France 24 and other tv channels, he hears this pronunciation most of the time.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I am not sure, if it makes very much sense to distinguish between "northern" and "southern" French any more. During the last 20 or 30 years, the convergence of accents into a single colloquial pronunciation within France metropolitaine has been so rapid, that the whole notion of regional accent (as distinct from regional languages) will soon probably be obsolete. Of course I am exaggerating but only slightly. Most southerners today you can only spot by occasional /o/-/ɔ/ confusions. It seems to me that sociolectal differences are nowadays much more important that dialectal ones.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I am not sure, if it makes very much sense to distinguish between "northern" and "southern" French any more. During the last 20 or 30 years, the convergence of accents into a single colloquial pronunciation within France metropolitaine has been so rapid, that the whole notion of regional accent (as distinct from regional languages) will soon probably be obsolete. Of course I am exaggerating but only slightly. Most southerners today you can only spot by occasional /o/-/ɔ/ confusions. It seems to me that sociolectal differences are nowadays much more important that dialectal ones.
    I also have noticed that younger people in the south no longer have as strong an accent. Pronouncing final -e is only occasional nowadays and rolled -r is pretty much dead. I carpooled with a flutist from Marseilles and the only thing I noticed is the o. She said /rɔz/ and /ɔtr/ instead of /roz/ and /otr/. But no final -e ever, and no trace of a velar /n/ after a nasal vowel either.
    I chalk it up to the fact that speaking with a regional accent in France is so badly viewed and connotes ignorance. Not like in Germany or Italy where it's fine and normal to speak any way you want.
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    So if the "blanc" vowel is getting closer and rounded, that means it's merging with the "blond" one? No, it seems like the latter is shifting as well? Strange that the "brin" and "brun" vowels have merged in many accents, even textbooks admit that, while the other two nasals have not- the an/on are much more alike to my ears.

    Most British learners take years to even hear the an/on as separate sounds, let alone pronounce them. We tend to hear them both as like the British "cot" vowel, nasalised. That sound is also closer than it used to be: it's an open-mid vowel for most RP and quasi-RP speakers, while the "caught" vowel has moved up to close-mid. So shifts are occurring in both languages, which makes the traditional transcriptions even more confusing. Now I've managed to sort the French sounds out, I tend to make the "an" more open than it perhaps needs to be, to avoid saying con instead of quand for example. So no doubt that will sound very old-fashioned soon....
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    The textbook nasal sound description are largely true and to be emulated. Brin and brun have only merged in popular Parisian speech. In the town I used to teach at blond and blanc had merged. Kids said je me suis trempé for je me suis trompé. No merger is ever correct. You are right that that the "an" vowel is wide open with slightly rounded lips but "on" is tightly rounded and closed, see the previous discussions above.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I am not sure, if it makes very much sense to distinguish between "northern" and "southern" French any more. During the last 20 or 30 years, the convergence of accents into a single colloquial pronunciation within France metropolitaine has been so rapid, that the whole notion of regional accent (as distinct from regional languages) will soon probably be obsolete. Of course I am exaggerating but only slightly. Most southerners today you can only spot by occasional /o/-/ɔ/ confusions. It seems to me that sociolectal differences are nowadays much more important that dialectal ones.

    I strongly disagree with this. There remains a huge difference between a native Marseillais or Provençal accent and one from, say, southern Gascony. And both are very different from Northern French pronunciation. I do not sense any levelling of pronunciation within France métropolitaine into a single regional accent.

    One could not pass through places like Tarbes, Brive, Mont-de-Marsan etc. and fail notice how markedly different the accent of people, whatever their social station, is to those from Northern France. If you look at any rugby match shown on French TV, most of the players and commentators will speak with unmistakable Southern accents (usually from the Southwest) because rugby is most popular in the South (example, Fabien Galthié).
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I chalk it up to the fact that speaking with a regional accent in France is so badly viewed and connotes ignorance. Not like in Germany or Italy where it's fine and normal to speak any way you want.

    That might be the case where you are, indeed, I'd concede that I've heard certain haughty Parisians utter similar sentiments but I assure you it is not the case in most of the South (excluding possible exceptions like Aix-en-Provence). I spend quite a lot of time in Dordogne and the idea that the people there have lost their local accent(s) is simply untrue.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    But, except for brun/brin, there are no mergers in Parisian French, only a little anticlockwise shift for nasal vowels and fronting for the open /o/.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    That might be the case where you are, indeed, I'd concede that I've heard certain haughty Parisians utter similar sentiments but I assure you it is not the case in most of the South (excluding possible exceptions like Aix-en-Provence). I spend quite a lot of time in Dordogne and the idea that the people there have lost their local accent(s) is simply untrue.
    I have never been to south-central or south-western France, except the coastal area from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, and though I wasn't really paying attention no strong accents struck my ear. I do know the east very well from Lorraine, Alsace, Champagne down through the Dijon, Lyon and the Alps to Provence, Cote d'Azur. I've been to small towns in Provence and also bigger coastal towns like Montpelier, Nice, Cannes, Aix en Provence. I did hear southern accents but the younger the person, the slighter the accent. I noticed that especially in family bakeries, restaurants, cafés where I had trouble understanding the elders 70+, the 40-70 generation was understandable but with all the typical characteristics of the southern accent, but under 40 something it started fading, it's not even rare to find someone with no regional accent. And it doesn't really depend on the education level. Since these are only trips I can't delve deeper into the matter.

    I can tell you that in Lorraine and Alsace people are always talking about accent and criticizing even those who have slight traces of a regional drawl. Even in grocery stores I have heard cassières make fun of customers. "Oh là là, mais d'où il sort ce mec, du fin fond de la Meuse ou quoi?!" People quite polite seem to have no trouble being rude when it comes to accents. I heard someone say of a waiter in an Alsatian restaurant in Alsace that you could tell from the waiter's accent he hadn't finished sixième. It was also in Lorraine that I heard the story of a lady from the south who wanted to be an elementary school teacher but was told at the IUFM that she would never make it unless she lost her accent because there was no way they would let her be a model for kids. I've got lots of accent stories but this is getting long.
    A few people have told me that politicians have to lose accents too even to become mayor in their town.
    In general from my experience I think accents slowly but surely are getting weaker than preceding generations, and probably because of the bad attitude towards them.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I have never been to south-central or south-western France, except the coastal area from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, and though I wasn't really paying attention no strong accents struck my ear. I do know the east very well from Lorraine, Alsace, Champagne down through the Dijon, Lyon and the Alps to Provence, Cote d'Azur. I've been to small towns in Provence and also bigger coastal towns like Montpelier, Nice, Cannes, Aix en Provence. I did hear southern accents but the younger the person, the slighter the accent. I noticed that especially in family bakeries, restaurants, cafés where I had trouble understanding the elders 70+, the 40-70 generation was understandable but with all the typical characteristics of the southern accent, but under 40 something it started fading, it's not even rare to find someone with no regional accent. And it doesn't really depend on the education level. Since these are only trips I can't delve deeper into the matter.

    I don't know about Alsace but I have lived near Marseille. There are certainly more people in the South-East with a "flat" accent (if such a thing exists) but I didn't notice any particular "loss" in younger generations. One must also remember that lots of Parisians and people from the North live in that part of France, further complicating matters. You could go to Nice, for instance, and never hear a trace of an accent from the southeast.

    But when it comes to the southwest (i.e. from the southern half of the département de la Charente downward), I am quite certain that no such "loss" is happening.

    Then there is the development of the truly awful "banlieue" accent of the région parisienne, which appears to be spreading at an alarming rate.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I also have noticed that younger people in the south no longer have as strong an accent. Pronouncing final -e is only occasional nowadays

    It would be a pity, because Southern accents were the most clear and the most similar to the other Romance languages (because most words are paraxitones, due to final /ə/ and they preserve words stress instead of Northern French sentence stress).
    For example, Northern French drop almost all e muettes in most situations:
    /ʒdi skə ʃpɔ̃s/
    /ʒə di sə kə ʒə pãⁿsə/
    In Northern French four syllables are dropped.
    L'accent Francitan est plus chantant.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    /ʒə di sə kə ʒə pãⁿsə/
    That would be a very strong accent nowadays
    /ʒdi skəʒ pãss/ is considered neutral
    /mwaʒ di skə ʒə pãsə/ might be new southern, something in between.
    Not contracting "ce que" is rare.
    Italians do always seem to have southern accents when speaking French.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    It seems that also French people think that l'accent toulousain est le plus sexy (70% of the preferences).
    http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2...WWW00727-l-accent-toulousain-le-plus-sexy.php
    http://www.toulouseinfos.fr/tolosa/...rigine-de-laccent-le-plus-sexy-de-france.html

    Northern French with sentences like /ʃtəldi/ (instead of the traditional Southern accent /ʒə tə lə di/) is becoming almost more vowel dropping than lisboeta Portuguese accent.
    Everyone has an opinion about accent according to the contact they have had with people who have it. I had a boss from Toulouse who had the accent once in a while. She was a tyrant and I still cringe when I hear or imagine "Fais-le cama ça".
    Standard French only drops "mute e", "e caduc", or "naked e" pretty regularly nowadays. Pronouncing the e in rose would be considered incorrect. However that is the only vowel that is reduced or dropped. In Portuguese, pretty much every vowel can be dropped (except unaccented a that is just reduced). U m'nin' 'stá @ ch'gá tard' p'r@ 'scol@ com us seus @-mig's. That is pretty much every word.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Standard French only drops "mute e", "e caduc", or "naked e" pretty regularly nowadays. Pronouncing the e in rose would be considered incorrect. However that is the only vowel that is reduced or dropped. In Portuguese, pretty much every vowel can be dropped (except unaccented a that is just reduced). U m'nin' 'stá @ ch'gá tard' p'r@ 'scol@ com us seus @-mig's. That is pretty much every word.

    "O menino está a chegar tarde para à escola com os seus amigos"
    Except for "pra" (which is the common spoken form) only "e" and some "o" are reduced.
    French just dropped all final "o", "e" and Northern French also final "a". Parlo, parlas, parla > je, tu il parle > parl; amigo, amiga > ami, amie > ami; lo, la > le > l. In Lisbon final "a" is always pronounced and the new final consonants are not dropped (amig and not ami).
    Also French, in pretonic open syllables reduced /e/ to /ə/, recevoir > /ʀsvwar/ like Lisbon Portuguese receber > /ʀsbeɾ/.
    French, often reduced also pretonic /a/, caballo > cheval > /ʃval/ vs. cavalo > /kɐval(u)/.

    Fast Northern speech is understandable only to French native speakers or to whom lived in France for some period.
    For example I find a bit more difficult fast spoken French than fast spoken Portuguese.
    In France (like in Portugal) prevailed the most vowel dropping accent (and some say that Southern Portuguese vowel reduction is due to some French influence).
     
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    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    The centralisation of the o in porte by some northern France speaker is blatant. So is the raising of a in plage, village (closer to è). It's hard to miss, and I find it weird that some people here fail to hear it.
    In my family we've always made fun of this way of speaking (southern :)) , and I find it either vulgar (like redneck, uneducated Parisian) or nauseatingly affected (like 16th arrondissement fils-à-papa), depending on other factors.

    And regarding the initial question, I would say that as long as English doesn't change its phonetic convention, there are even less reasons for French to do it :p.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I have made some measurement (with the freeware software "praat") of these vowels.
    All the speakers are male, spl0uf (you said that his pronunciation is a good standard one) and Caracalla from Paris, gwen_bzh from the North West France.

    The open-mid vowel /ɔ/:
    spl0uf: 462/1065 (port) 373/1051 (porte) (while his /œ/ is 325/1402 in "heure" and 390/1382 in "Beuvry")
    makingtie: 643/833 (porto), from Sicily
    Paolo_B: 649/766 (porto), from Lombardy
    RuanCH: 635/812 (porta), from Brazil

    There are 200 Hz of difference in F2 (and the French /ɔ/ is also more closed than the Italian and Portuguese ones which are more similar to the English /ɒ/), so Canepari, Wells and Philippe Boula de Mareüil, Martine Adda-Decker, Cécile Woehrling are right, French /ɔ/ is centralized and we can write it [ɞ̠].

    The nasal vowel /ɑ̃/
    Caracalla: 545/966 (hante)
    gwen_bzh: 528/826 (en)
    gwen_bzh: 627/968 (cent)

    This vowel is open-mid (F1 from 627 to 528) and it is back, and it is an [ɔ̟̃] for the Italian and Portuguese standards.

    I know this is a little sample of few speakers but it confirms what phoneticians say after having worked with larger samples.
     
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    Wai Ho

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Yes, the man in the video is speaking the way most people do in France. I'll certainly agree with that, but I do not see how the [ɑ̃] is a rounded vowel or that he rounds the lips. At any rate it is definitely far from [ɔ̃]. The Quebecker sounds to me like her [ɑ̃] is moving towards [ɛ̃].
    Watching it again it just looks like he opens up his mouth to say France. He is neither spreading apart his lips nor rounding them. It's very lax compared to [ɔ̃]

    But he clearly says /pɔʁt/! It's not at all a central sound. It's just below /o/. It might not be exactly the vowel in "ho" but it is very close. There may be things people don't pronounce well but "mort" and "meurt" are rigourously distinguised. Some American learners might associate "botte" with "but", and "phoque" with "fuck", but they are really quite different.

    Going back to the original discussion of whether we ought to change the symbols for standard French. Absolutely not. You will find different variations of speech in every region throughout the Francophone world, diverging a little, a lot or none from the standard. It can be regional, based on social class or even be a personal way of talking. But the standard still is an idealized way of speaking that educated people try to adhere to as much as they can. It is clear that the standard in French is used as such and is far from being outdated. And from what I see here, much much much more so than in Italian, German or English.
    Yes, you're right, the Quebec "an" sounds like the French "in".
     
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