Where are French words stressed?

Eugens

Senior Member
Argentina Spanish
Bonjour! :)
I have this lingering doubt (I hope it is not very stupid). All words of more than one syllable in all languages (or at least I suppose so?) have one syllable that is stressed more than the others. In English, a word's stressed syllable is shown beside the word in the phonetic pronunciation where a mark like an apostrophe appears before the stressed syllable. But in French I have this problem: I don't know which the stressed syllable is because the "apostrophe" doesn't appear in the phonetic pronunciation. I asked a friend who is learning French why this mark is not shown and he told me that it is because all words in French are stressed on the last syllable (?) Is he right? Then, I asked another friend of mine about this and she told me that that wasn't true and she gave as an example that "fenêtre" is not stressed on the last syllable. Do the diacritics indicate where the word is stressed like in Spanish?
Thank you.
 
  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Hi Eugens -

    The way that French is stressed is very different from the way Spanish and English are stressed. The basic underlying stress pattern is based on entire phrases, and it is the final syllable in each phrase which takes the stress (note that "phrase" here does not necessarily = "sentence").

    So -

    Hier, j'ai vu un homme qui portait des lunettes et qui criait dans la rue.

    would be split into phrase something like this

    Hier / , j'ai vu un homme / qui portait des lunettes / et qui criait dans la rue.

    and so the stresses would fall on the red words (incidently the intonation would rise for each of the preceding phrases and descend on the final on to "rue").

    So your friend is partially correct in that the stress falls at the end of the end of a word, but in fact only at the end of the word at the end of the phrase.

    So "une maison" but "une maison blanche", with the "son" of "maison" relatively unstressed this time.

    That is true for general stress patterns, but on top of this you do have stress for emphasis, so I imagine in my above example the "cri" of "criait" would also have a stress, which can indeed be more or less strong than the base one, depending on how much you wish to stress something.

    Basically you can only analyse French stress of a word in terms of its position and function in the sentence.

    Hope that helps.
     
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    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    That sounds right to me, (no expert;)). This may be off-piste but what I notice more than any stressing among a good half (estimate) of French speakers is that they have caught HRT - High Rising Terminal, making every statement sound like a question or did they always have it ?
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Hello, Eugens,

    Timpeac has already given you an excellent answer which I completely agree with. I just want to add that it's probably more useful to tell yourself that French doesn't stress any syllables, since even when it does, it usually does so to a much lesser extent than English or German (don't know about Spanish). The tricky thing is usually limiting stress patterns rather than putting them in the right place and anglophones are usually immediately recognisable to French speakers because of the extra stress they put on words, even if their vocab and grammar (and accent) are impeccable.

    One other point:
    Eugens said:
    she gave as an example that "fenêtre" is not stressed in the last syllable.
    In fact the final 'e' is not pronounced at all, so 'fenêtre' is a two-syllable word. So if the word is at the end of a clause, stress will fall on the 'nê' syllable, which is in fact the last one.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Amityville said:
    That sounds right to me, (no expert;)). This may be off-piste but what I notice more than any stressing among a good half (estimate) of French speakers is that they have caught HRT - High Rising Terminal, making every statement sound like a question or did they always have it ?
    So in my example they would finish on a rise up to "rue"? Can't say I've heard that myself. It is normal for the starting phrase to be on a rising intonation though.
     

    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think so, yes (checking my memory), sometimes followed by 'quoi'

    Il criait dans la rue, quoi.

    or sometimes just there in a succession of phrases, non-verbally asking for the listener's nod.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Ah followed by the "quoi" I can understand - the final descending tone phrase can be as long as a single word, so the descent would happen on "quoi".

    In terms of the succession of phrases you do hear that all the time. For example if my example had been longer you might well have had many phrases going up as you described the man until you got to your descent at the end. If this was just a simple "quoi" then it might well sound like a load of rising intontations I suppose.

    What do natives say - do you hear this rising intonation with no final descent at all?
     

    gliamo

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Definite descent on quoi. Without quoi, there could be a rising intonation on rue for emphasis.... I think...
     

    Jad

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Syllable stress
    In normal, unemphatic speech, the final syllable of a word, or the final syllable of a sense group, carries a moderate degree of stress. The syllable stressed is given extra prominence by greater length and intensity. The exception to this rule is a final syllable containing a mute e, which is never stressed.

    Sentence stress
    Unlike the stress pattern of English associated with meaning, sentence stress in French is associated with rhythm. The stress falls on the final syllable of the sense groups of which the sentence is formed. In the following example : quand il m'a vu, il a traversé la rue en courant pour me dire un mot, composed of 3 sense groups, the syllables vu, -rant and mot carry the stress.

    Source - Collins Robert French Dictionary Complete and Unabridged

    I hope that helps and stays within the forum rules :eek:
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In French the stress of a single word can change when this word is placed into a sentence.
    The French say levez! [lə've] and levez la main! ['ləve la 'mɛ̃].
    here you can find some audio sample.
     

    broglet

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is an extremely interesting question, Eugens, with much useful information in all the above answers. The lack of consistent stress is, in my opinion, one of the things that makes spoken French one of the most difficult languages to understand. The fact that a single word can sound very different, according to which syllable, if any, is stressed is superimposed on the fact that vowel sounds can sound completely different when a liaison occurs. The end result is that spoken French is a river of sound where mysterious and unpredictable syllables follow on from one another ... and separating it out into words and meanings can be a mammoth task. If you can't recognise a whole phrase you can often be completely at sea.
     

    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Are you saying that when you pronounce the single words "levez" and "ouvrez", "écoutez" you put the stress on the first syllable? :eek:
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I don't know about other speakers, but if I had to pick a syllable to accentuate, I would pick the first one, yes. Écoutez, ouvrez. That being said, I don't think we French speakers accentuate any syllables when speaking. We do accentuate words, but usually not syllables within words.
     

    lamy08

    Senior Member
    There is no stress in French actually. Just a falling intonation at the end of a sentence (except in Paris (posh).

    J'imagine le contexte dans une salle de gym; c'est un cours collectif; le prof dit: Levez les bras! Levez! Plus haut! ... Comme il s'agit d'un encouragement, il pourra accentuer la 1ère syllabe, mais c'est un contexte particulier. Il n'est pas obligé. Il peut prononcer les 2 syllabes de façon égale.

    Le médecin dira au patient: levez le bras, sans accentuer, car il ne doit pas parler haut et fort.

    Pour reprendre votre question de départ avec 1 seul verbe, je dirais qu'en principe, on accentue (just a little bit) la 1ère syllabe, car il s'agit d'un ordre: Ouvrez! Ecoutez! Silence!
    Si après un 1er ordre, les personnes n'ouvrent pas la porte ou n'écoutent pas, la personne pourra répéter son ordre plus fort en mettant l'accent sur la dernière syllabe: Ouvrez! Ecoutez! Silence!

    C'est plus clair?
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    :confused:
    excusez [eksky'se]
    excusez-moi [eks'kyse mwa]
    I don't know who came up with these phonetic transcriptions, but I listened to both audio clips and I heard a clear stress on the first syllable. Note that, in my opinion, the syllable was accentuated because Forvo is like an "audio dictionary", where words are taken individually. If they came in a normal sentence, but there wouldn't be a stress. The way I see it:

    «Je vous demande d'écouter» : no stress.

    «Écoutez... Je vous demande juste de m'aider» (here, écoutez means Look...) : no stress, but the last syllable of écoutez can be lengthened because of the ellipsis dots: écouteeez. And then it trails off. If you stressed it (as opposed to simply lengthening it), it would be écouTEZ, and you would end up sounding either angry or German.
    I agree with Lamy08's explaination.
     
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    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Please do insist! I love having debates. I'm just sharing my personal experience as a French native speaker, but I also like hearing what other people think. I'm just saying that I'd rather trust my ears than what phoneticians write, because hearing a language spoken teaches you more than reading about it.

    Words sound different when they come individually (as on Forvo) and when they're part of a larger conversation.

    When I hear a conversation in English, and suddenly a French word or phrase comes up, I notice it immediately, even when I'm not even paying attention. It upsets the accentuation and the whole flow of the sentence. If you listen to the English pronunciation of the phrase déjà vu for instance, you'll notice there's no stressed syllable. The word déjà doesn't have a stress, and the word vu is indicated to be stressed, but probably because there always needs to be a stressed vowel in an English word. In French, and in an everyday conversation, the word déjà vu wouldn't be stressed anywhere. It's just dé-jà-vu.
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    I concur with Nino. Écoutez sounds absolutely unnatural to my ears.
    I would stress - or rather, lengthen - the first syllable in a limited number of cases.
    In a crowd: "Pardon, paaaardon, eeeexcusez-moi... laaaaissez passer... chaaaaud devant..."
    Said by a physician: "Ouuuvrez bien la bouche..."

    Also, I am no phonetician (though I dealt with a little linguistics in a former life) but I would stress the last element of the stress group in "excusez-moi". Certainly not "excusez-moi".
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I'm just saying that I'd rather trust my ears than what phoneticians write, because hearing a language spoken teaches you more than reading about it.
    There is a recent thread on EHL forum where a Belgian teacher said that French students don't hear the difference at first between "If I were you" vs. "Als ik jou was" in Dutch.
    Anyway, every single transcription says it, it is obvious. A little example: http://venus.unive.it/canipa/pdf/HPr_04_French.pdf
    [paʁ'le] parler vs [paʁ'lɛ] parlais, [sa've] savez vs. [sa'vɛ] savait (page 3).
    This is taken for granted!
    Also, I am no phonetician (though I dealt with a little linguistics in a former life) but I would stress the last element of the stress group in "excusez-moi". Certainly not "excusez-moi".
    In a strict transcription, there is a primary and a secondary stress.
    ekskyˈze > eksˌkyze ˈmwa, paʁˈle > ˌpaʁle ˈmwa
    I know that other Romance languages are not allowed here, but in French you say: ouvrez > uˈvʁe but ouvrez le livre > ˌuvʁe lə ˈlivʁə, in the other Romance languages the verb has the same stress, it doesn't change.
    This is why the other Romance languages (like English, German) have a "word stress" while French has a "sentence stress".
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    A little example: http://venus.unive.it/canipa/pdf/HPr_04_French.pdf
    [paʁ'le] parler vs [paʁ'lɛ] parlais, [sa've] savez vs. [sa'vɛ] savait (page 3).
    This is taken for granted!
    I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying parler and parlais (or savez and savait) are supposed to be stressed differently? The vowels are clearly different (e vs. ɛ), but this thread deals with accentuation. I, personally, don't say parLER!, or saVEZ!. I just go par-ler, sa-vez.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying parler and parlais (or savez and savait) are supposed to be stressed differently? The vowels are clearly different (e vs. ɛ), but this thread deals with accentuation.
    I'm saying that when a verb ends in -ez, -er, ais, ait, it's the last syllable that is stressed, not the first. Excusez!, not excusez!. The symbol /'/ indicates where the stress is.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I think there's a big difference between what English speakers call accentuation, and what we call it. What you can be sure of, is that French words aren't nearly as stressed as English words are.

    When you told me that words like ouvrez or excusez were stressed on the last syllable, I automatically thought you were talking about an English-like stress (as in the word outside, as in I went outside). If you stress the words ouvrez / excuser / savez / parlais the very same way the word outside is stressed in English, then I can guarantee you it will sound as unnatural as can be. This is the idea I wanted to get across.

    On the other hand, there might be a very slight sort of stress on French words (which phoneticians seem to indicate as an apostrophe as well, just as in English), but it is so slight that I consider it non-existent. This is just the mouth returning to its resting position.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    words like ouvrez or excusez
    I'm sorry, I still keep hearing an accent on the last syllable, and I think also English speakers probably do it! :)
    Maybe this is why the French say Robertò Benignì while English speakers say Rowbèrtow Benìni, putting the stress on the right syllable. Like Romance speakers don't hear, at first, the difference between long and short English vowels (but after some training they are able to do it), probably French speakers don't hear at first word stress. It's only my opinion.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I would add that this "sentence stress" is not present in Southern French accents (like le toulousain, le niçard).
    Search on youtube "D'où vient l'accent toulousain" (it's short, 1 minute and 8 seconds).
    At 47" le professeur Pierre Escudé (Université de Bordeaux) says that one of the main characteristics of the accent from Toulouse is that there is a word stress and not a sentence stress, le toulousain dit "la pətitə fijə va a lecolə", not "la p(ə)tit fij va a lecol", i.e he points out that in Northern French the stress changes from "pətitə" to "p(ə)tit fij" but this doesn't happen in Toulouse (or in Nice, Marseille or Bordeaux).
     
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    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I would add that this "sentence stress" is not present in Southern French accents (like le toulousain, le niçard).
    Search on youtube "D'où vient l'accent toulousain" (it's short, 1 minute and 8 seconds).
    At 47" le professeur Pierre Escudé (Université de Bordeaux) says that one of the main characteristics of the accent from Toulouse is that there is a word stress and not a sentence stress, le toulousain dit "la pətitə fijə va a lecolə", not "la p(ə)tit fij va a lecol", i.e he points out that in Northern French the stress changes from "pətitə" to "p(ə)tit fij" but this doesn't happen in Toulouse (or in Nice, Marseille or Bordeaux).
    You've just proved my point. In French, only words are stressed within a sentence, unless you have a strong Southern accent. In which case, you tend to stress syllables within words, too.

    Also, I've just watched the video you mentioned, but I didn't quite hear it the same way you did. When he says it with his Southern twang, he says La petite fille va à l'école (with a stress on fille and école). When he drops the accent, he says La petite fille va à l'école, only stressing the word école. In neither case is the word petite stressed.
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    Word or group stress does exist although in a barely audible form. Try to drag on the first syllable, while pronouncing it louder and on a higher pitch... and you will get the impression that something falls out of place. An example is "la cabane au fond du jardin" :p (this is Francis Cabrel but the strange stress pattern is not a particularly Toulousain feature).
    I would say that, a contrario, final word stress exists.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Nino, I don't know who those phoneticians are, but Pierre Escudé himself says it in the video!

    «...La petite fille va à l'école, avec un seul accent.» Un seul accent. The stress is put on the word école, and this is the only word stressed. If you stress the word petite, fille and école, you basically stress all of the important words of the sentence! :eek: No native French speaker would ever say La petIIIte fIIIlle va à l'écOOOle. The word petite is pronounce so quickly it's often shortened to p'tite.

    What if the sentence was La petite fille blonde va à l'école primaire ? Would you say La petIIIte fIIIlle blOONNde va à l'écOOOle primAAIIre, because you've looked up each word one by one and found out they had to be stressed this way? The words may very well have such a stress when they're taken individually, on their own, as you may hear on Forvo. I actually believe they definitely do. If I had to pronounce them one by one, individually, I would stress them this way. A stress on the -i, the -on, the -o and the -ai. But they're not stressed this way when they're part of a sentence!

    I would personally pronounce it La petite fille blonde va à l'école, because blonde is the last word within its 'unit' (the unit being la petite fille blonde), and because école is the last word of the sentence.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    you basically stress all of the important words of the sentence!
    I'm not saying that every word in a sentence is stressed with the same emphasis. This doesn't happen in other languages too. Some words have a secondary accent and other ones (like articles, prepositions and so on) are unstressed.
    What in Northern French changes is the secondary stress into the sentence.
    In English (and in Romance languages), you say white, castle and a white castle (normally the word "castle" has the primary stress and "white" a secondary stress, "a" is totally unstressed).
    In Northern French you say château but le château blanc (primary stress on "blanc", "le" is unstressed and "chateau" has a secondary stress but the stressed syllable is different). Southern French speakers (like English, Italian, Spanish ones) put the secondary stress on the same syllable, le château blanc.
    This is the difference I heard between excusez and excusez-moi or between la petite fille and la ptit fille.
    This is simply what I heard. But everyone has his ears and hears things differently. I note this difference between Northern French speakers and other Romance and English speakers.
    This is probably the reason why Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales and Dictionnaire - 21 dictionnaires gratuits en ligne - Larousse don't write which syllable is stressed.
     
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    Lacuzon

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Bonjour,

    I don't fully agree with you about château. To me, it will depend on the Northern accent. In Paris, you will probably hear château and le chateau blanc whereas in the East of France, because of the diacritic ^, you will hear château and le château blanc (As far as I know, it goes the same in Quebec and Swiss). Depending on how strong the East accent will be, you may even hear two a as if it were Chaateau et le le chaateau blanc.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    This is why I said "I don't isist". :D
    Let's see if I make me understood with some example containing e muet and e caduc.
    Let's take those words formed by three syllables where the stress is on the last syllable and there are two pretonic "e" in open syllable.
    In these words there is a stressed syllable (the last) and two "unstressed syllables, but the first has a secondary stress (countertonic syllable) while the second is totally unstressed (intertonic syllable).
    épeler, élever, dépecer, dételer, déceler.
    ep(ə)'le, el(ə)'ve, dep(ə)'se, del(ə)'te, des(ə)'le.
    As you can see, the last syllable is stressed, the first has secondary stress, so it is pronounced [e], and the second is totally unstressed, i.e it is pronounced with e muet [ə] or dropped, e caduc. The pattern is secondary stress, unstressed, primary stress.
    We find the same pattern in words like:
    relever, revenue
    rəl(ə)'ve, rəv(ə)'ny.
    In fact, in relaxed pronunciation, which unstressed "e" is more likely to be dropped? That on the second, totally unstressed, syllable.
    There are words like téléphone, where both unstressed "e" in open syllables are retained but we don't find words with this pattern, e caduc, secondary stressed "e" in open syllable, stressed "e".
    The pattern is secondary stress, unstressed, primary stress.
    When Northern French speakers pronounce two words into a sentence, they will pronounce it as if it were a single word, i.e with this pattern, secondary stress, unstressed, primary stress.
    So, château blanc and excusez-moi have this pattern, unstressed, secondary stress, primary stress. French speakers move the secondary stress two syllables before the stressed syllable of the prosodic group, pronouncing this part of sentence like a single word, i.e secondary stress, unstressed, primary stress, pronouncing château blanc and excusez-moi. This is the reason why tout le monde says that French speakers pronounce sentences as if they were single words.
    Those people having a strong Southern French accent have a different prosody, i.e they don't move the secondary stress of the prosodic unit (but less and less people have a strong Southern French accent).
    They say château blanc and excusez-moi.
    petite petite
    la petite fille la petite fille
     
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    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    I'm sorry, I still keep hearing an accent on the last syllable, and I think also English speakers probably do it!
    Maybe this is why the French say Robertò Benignì while English speakers say Rowbèrtow Benìni, putting the stress on the right syllable. Like Romance speakers don't hear, at first, the difference between long and short English vowels (but after some training they are able to do it), probably French speakers don't hear at first word stress. :thumbsup:
    En allemand comme en anglais, la longueur des voyelles et les accents de mots sont très variables (et très importants pour la compréhension - par exemple: to live / to leave) - phénomènes inconnus en français.
    C'est pourquoi beaucoup de francophones sont immédiatement reconnaissables en tant que tels quand ils parlent des langues étrangères car ils ne respectent (souvent) pas les voyelles longues et ont tendance à accentuer les mots sur la dernière syllabe comme ils le font (apparemment sans s'en rendre compte, si j'en crois quelques témoignages dans ce fil) en français.

    Je parle d'expérience (après des années d'enseignement de l'allemand à de petits et grands Français).
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    ont tendance à accentuer les mots sur la dernière syllabe comme ils le font (apparemment sans s'en rendre compte, si j'en crois quelques témoignages dans ce fil) en français.
    Exactly. For example minimal pairs like insight [ˈɪnsaɪt] and incite [ɪnˈsaɪt] are not present in French.
    There are a lot of papers on this fact, for example Persistent stress ‘deafness’: The case of French learners of Spanish or some members, like the Belgian teacher I spoke about before.
    The fact is that a French speaker says mon ami and le château (stress on the final syllable) but then he says l'ami de Pierre | va au château blanc and the foreign student thinks "what is àmi? and chàteau?", while French speakers, at first, don't hear the difference between insight and incite, or between Benìgni and Benignì.
     

    Lacuzon

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Exactly. For example minimal pairs like insight [ˈɪnsaɪt] and incite [ɪnˈsaɪt] are not present in French.
    There are a lot of papers on this fact, for example Persistent stress ‘deafness’: The case of French learners of Spanish or some members, like the Belgian teacher I spoke about before.
    The fact is that a French speaker says mon ami and le château (stress on the final syllable) but then he says l'ami de Pierre | va au château blanc and the foreign student thinks "what is àmi? and chàteau?", while French speakers, at first, don't hear the difference between insight and incite, or between Benìgni and Benignì.
    You're probably quite right, as JClaudeK. I agree we focus on sentence (at least on words unit) rather than on words. In fact, I'm under the impression that French speakers don't stress anything.
     

    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    Je viens de tomber sur cette phrase (qui devrait faire réfléchir les tenants du "je ne vois pas pourquoi accentuer la dernière syllabe.") ;)
    Tu veux écrire "crééémeux" [....] C'est difficile à prononcer pour un francophone, avec cet accent tonique sur la première syllabe. Plutôt "crémeeeuse". Voir: Crééémeux
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    En allemand comme en anglais, la longueur des voyelles et les accents de mots sont très variables (et très importants pour la compréhension - par exemple: to live / to leave) - phénomènes inconnus en français.
    Caducs mais pas complètement inconnus - qu'on écoute la diction dans les vieilles actualités cinématographiques de l'entre-deux-guerres pour s'en convaincre. Ou la diction de Piaf (mais la mélodie tend à exagérer ces phénomènes).

    C'est pourquoi beaucoup de francophones sont immédiatement reconnaissables en tant que tels quand ils parlent des langues étrangères car ils ne respectent (souvent) pas les voyelles longues et ont tendance à accentuer les mots sur la dernière syllabe comme ils le font (apparemment sans s'en rendre compte, si j'en crois quelques témoignages dans ce fil) en français.
    À accentuer en finale ou à placer l'accent au petit bonheur la (mal)chance.
    Inversement, les étudiants de français langue étrangère entendent clairement un accent sur la dernière syllabe et le reproduisent parfois de façon exagérée. Je parle d'expérience après quelques petites années d'enseignement du FLE, il y a fort longtemps :D.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I add some example to complete my reasoning.
    French speakers pronounce every prosodic unit like it were a single word.
    u = unstressed, ss = secondary stress, ps = primary stress
    If there is u-ss-ps it becomes ss-u-ps.
    If there is ss-u-(u)-ps, it doesn't change.
    In other words, French speakers move secondary stress in order to have one unstressed syllable between secondary and primary stress.
    petit-filsˈti ˈfis > ˌpətiˈfis (u-ss-ps > ss-u-ps)
    petit caféˈti kaˈfe > pəˌtikaˈfe (equal)
    petit déjeunerˈti deʒøˈne = pəˌtideʒøˈne (equal)
    This is the reason why French dictionaries don't indicate which syllable is stressed.
     
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    Seeda

    Banned
    法语 / French (FR)
    I'm sorry but my ear and all phoneticians say that excusez = [eksky'ze] and écoutez = [eku'te].
    I don't insist.
    Kudos to you for knowing all the phoneticians living on this planet. In my (more limited) experience, you'd be hard-pressed to find two linguists who can agree on the way French is stressed, and the claim that all French words are stressed on the last syllable is definitely not universally accepted.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    and the claim that all French words are stressed on the last syllable is definitely not universally accepted
    Anyway you can ask everyone (English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Danish, Swedish speakers) where the French put the stress when they pronounce nouns like Roberto Benigni or Silvio Berlusconi, and everyone will say Robertò Benignì or Silviò Berlusconì.
    It is sufficient to hear France24 for some minutes.

    This is the easiest and more common way to "fake" the French accent.
    Stressing the last syllable. In French, always stress the last syllable of a sentence or before you pause with a rising pitch as if asking a question. (E.g. "I am from New York(?).")
    How to Fake a Convincing French Accent (point 6)
     
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    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'm not a native speaker but even I don't think the French consistently stress anything. It's relatively even, with emphasis depending on context rather than syllable order, and it only sounds like they're accenting the last syllable to a person whose ear expects the syllable in question to have less, rather than equal, stress.
     

    broglet

    Senior Member
    English - England
    interesting point kelly - perceived stress is not absolute but relative to expectations (like most perception). Certainly context seems to affect French syllabic stress much more than it does in English.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    with emphasis depending on context
    Anyway what people speaking different languages immediately notice is that in French there is a strong stress on the last syllable of every prosodic unit. This phenomenon is so systematic that it's difficult to say that the French language doesn't have any stress.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Anyway what people speaking different languages immediately notice is that in French there is a strong stress on the last syllable of every prosodic unit.
    Ce n'est pas possible. On ne peut pas accentuer la dernière syllabe de chaque mot.

    "Je parlais mal anglais quand j'étais petit." → Je parLAIS mal angLAIS quand j'éTAIS peTIT ?? :eek:

    Une de mes amies parle effectivement comme ça. Mais elle est anglaise, et bien qu'elle s'exprime très bien en français, elle a tout de même un fort accent anglais. Je prononcerais cette phrase Je-parlais-mal-angLAIS quand-j'étais-petit. L'accentuation fait office de virgule, de pause. Les autres mots sont collés. Aucun ne se détache en particulier. En français, on ne 'hache' pas les phrases pour accentuer chaque mot séparément. On accentue généralement le dernier mot d'un groupe de sens.

    Sur ce lien, vous pouvez écouter les prononciations anglaise, américaine, australienne, etc. du mot "petite". Vous remarquerez que la dernière syllabe ("-tit") est toujours accentuée en anglais.
    Sur ce lien, vous pouvez écouter la prononciation française du mot "petit". Aucune syllabe n'est particulièrement accentuée.

    C'est justement lorsqu'un locuteur accentue la dernière syllabe que je reconnais qu'il est étranger. Si vous dites /puh-TEEET/, vous avez un accent anglo-saxon, pas français.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Je prononcerais cette phrase Je-parlais-mal-angLAIS quand-j'étais-petit.
    Hi, Oddmania. That's what I said. Je parlais mal anglais | quand j'étais petit.
    Prosodic unit = string of words before a pause.
    (I'd transcribe it [ʃpaʁˌlemalɒ̃ˈglɛ kɒ̃ˌʒetɛp(ə)ˈti])

    Sur ce lien, vous pouvez écouter les prononciations anglaise, américaine, australienne, etc. du mot "petite". Vous remarquerez que la dernière syllabe ("-tit") est toujours accentuée en anglais.
    Sur ce lien, vous pouvez écouter la prononciation française du mot "petit". Aucune syllabe n'est particulièrement accentuée.
    My transcription: English [pəˈtʰiːtʰ], French [pə̹ˈti] (the French ə̹ is more rounded than the English ə, ̹ = more rounded)
     
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