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Query Details

Query Subject:   French section of the Handbook of the IPA
Author:   Neil Coffey
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s):  French

Query:   Dear Linguists,

I'd be interested to have people's opinions on the section
on French (pp. 78-81) in the Handbook of the IPA published
earlier this year. Specifically on the following points:

(1) The authors say that [E~] (the nasalised vowel in e.g.
'matin') is ''produced with a tongue and lip position
very similar to its oral counterpart [E]''. Assuming
for the sake of argument that this is true of the
'young Parisian female' whose speech they're describing,
how common is this among (say) young Parisian speakers
as a whole? My observation is that pairs such as
'attention' ~ 'intention' are perceptually very similar
for native speakers, and I'd be interested to know
what, if any, studies have been done on the articulatory
position of, and perception of, this vowel, and whether
in 1999 we can really regard [E] as its oral counterpart
for most young Parisian speakers.

(2) On p. 80, the authors state that ''Contrasts between [j]
and [i] occur chiefly in final position, as in [abej]
'abeille' vs. [abei] 'abbaye'.''. To what extent is
'contrast between [j] and [i]' an appropriate way to
characterise this difference? It seems to me that what
they speak of as ''final position'' is actually two
different environments from the point of view of
syllabification, and that what they transcribe as [e]
could be analysed as a different vowel underlyingly
in the two cases, and that this difference provides
probably a motivating constraint for the [j]/[i]
difference. Viz. adopting a segmental notation, we
can say that these words are something like /abEi/
and /abei/ underlyingly, and that /E/, but not /e/,
can occur in a closed syllable. I'd appreciate
others' opinions on this matter.

(3) In the transcription, 'serait regard駠is transcribed
as [s@R@ R@-], i.e. with a schwa for the second vowel.
How common is this assimilation? I'm surprised that
the verb ending is completely reduced to a schwa
as suggested here. Is it just me not being very

(4) In the word 'renon硧, [o~] is transcribed differently
from elsewhere. Is there any motivation for this?

(5) I'm surprised that [i] is marked as lengthened in
'ils sont tomb鳧, but e.g. [a] isn't in 'commen硊 a briller' [kOmA~sa bRije]. What do others think?

All comments/feedback appreciated; I will of course
summarise to the List if requested.


Neil Coffey Fax: 0870 0553662 WWW:
LL Issue: 10.1767
Date posted: 21-Nov-1999


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