phonétique


les syllables


In previous chapters, we have analyzed intonation, stress, liaison and elision as separate phenomena. We now focus on the structure of the syllables in order to show that these phenomena are related. The syllables of spoken French tend to begin with a consonant and end with a vowel (often called a CV syllable), as illustrated in the title of this chapter:
Bon appétit!   [b -na-pe-ti] = [CV-CV-CV-CV]

The consonant-vowel pattern of French syllables contrasts with English syllables which tend to end with a consonant (CVC). The following cognates exemplify this tendency of syllabification:

French   English
Ca.rotte   Carr.ot
Cé.ré.ale   Cer.e.al
vi.nai.gre   vin.e.gar

Recall that French words are subject to liaison or linking of a consonant to a following vowel. It is important to realize that liaison and elision (dropping a vowel) actually contribute to a more regular C/V alternation.

Liaison   des_épinards [de-ze-pi-nar]
Elision   l'entrée [lã-tre]

Listen and repeat the following sentences. Pronounce all the syllables with the same force.

Je vais boire_un verre.
Vous mangez trop de chocolat!
Je prends du café le matin.
Toi, tu es fromage.
Mais moi, je suis plutôt dessert!
La tarte_au citron ou la tarte_aux pommes ...
C'est l'embarras du choix, n'est-ce pas?!


Les consonnes finales /k/ /R/ /f/ /l/


You have learned that French spelling is not to be trusted. For example, many French words are spelled with final consonants which aren't pronounced (e.g. fruit)! As a rule, final consonant letters are silent in French except for c, r, f, and l. (They spell the English word careful!) These final consonants are often (but not always) pronounced.
Listen to the following examples and repeat.

sec   avec   chic   lac   parc   (mais ... porc!)
avoir   obéir   mer   cher   cancer (mais ... manger, aller, parler, etc.)
un apéritif   du boeuf   un oeuf (mais ... des boeufs, des oeufs)
bol   principal   avril   bel (mais ... l'ail, le travail)