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Summary Details


Query:   Sum: French section of the Handbook of the IPA
Author:  Neil Coffey
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics
Phonology

Summary:   GENERAL
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A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, I POSTED A REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES RELATING TO THE SECTION ON FRENCH IN THE HANDBOOK OF THE IPA. SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE REPLIED BOTH WITH
FEEDBACK AND A REQUEST FOR A SUMMARY, WHICH I GIVE BELOW. MY THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO REPLIED, AND IN PARTICULAR TO THE FOLLOWING FOR THEIR VERY DETAILED RESPONSES:

{A} ROGER BILLEREY
{B} AURELIEN MAX
{C} CHANTAL RITTAUD-HUTINET
{D} JOAQUIM DE CARVALHO
{E} MARC BAVANT
{F} JOHANNES REESE
{G} DOUGLAS WALKER

IN THE SUMMARY BELOW, LETTERS IN BRACES REFER TO RESPONDENTS WHO SPECIFICALLY ADVOCATED A PARTICULAR VIEW; NOTE THAT THEIR ABSENCE DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT THEY UPHOLD A CONTRARY VIEW.

RESPONSES
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(1) THERE WAS LARGE, THOUGH (SURPRISINGLY?) NOT UNANIMOUS, AGREEMENT THAT THE NASALISED VOWEL IN E.G. 'MATIN' IS CLOSER IN TIMBRE TO [AE~] THAN [E~] {ACDG}, THOUGH ALL COMMENTS REFERRED TO PERCEPTION/FORMANT STRUCTURE RATHER THAN ARTICULATION. ONE YOUNGER SPEAKER MADE THE POINT THAT THE TONGUE SEEMED _LOWER_ IN THE MOUTH FOR THE FIRST VOWEL OF 'INTENTION' THAN FOR 'ATTENTION' {B}; AN OLDER SPEAKER MADE THE POINT THAT IF THERE EXISTED THE WORD 'ETTENTION' (WITH [E-]), IT WOULD BE CLOSER TO 'INTENTION' THAN 'ATTENTION' {E}.

TWO (NON-NATIVE) RESPONDENTS WONDERED IF A [A~]/[E~] DIFFERENCE IN TIMBRE MIGHT OPERATE DEPENDING ON MORPHOLOGICAL POSITION OF THE VOWEL {F}.

ONE RESPONDENT RECOMMENDED HANSEN (1998), REFERENCED BELOW {G}. I HAVE IT ON ORDER, AND WILL SUMMARISE ANY RELEVANT INFORMATION.

AS IT STANDS, THEN, IT SEEMS QUESTIONABLE WHETHER THE HANDBOOK'S CLAIM THAT ''THE VOWEL [E~] IS PRODUCED WITH TONGUE AND LIP POSITION VERY SIMILAR TO ITS ORAL COUNTERPART [E]'' IS LIKELY TO BE TRUE FOR MOST SPEAKERS, AND EVEN IF IT WERE, IT SEEMS UNCLEAR WHETHER THIS FACT IS SOMETHING THAT REPRESENTS THE WAY SPEAKERS PERCEPTUALISE THE TWO VOWELS AND/OR SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE REPRESENTED IN THE TRANSCRIPTION.

(2) ALL THOSE WHO COMMENTED SPECIFICALLY AGREED THAT THE TRANSCRIPTION OF 'ABEILLE' AS [ABEJ] IS PROBABLY SIMPLY WRONG, AND THAT [E] DOES NOT OCCUR IN A CLOSED SYLLABLE[1].

(3) ALL THOSE WHO SPEFICALLY COMMENTED AGREED THAT THE SECOND SCHWA IN 'SERAIT REGARDE' [S@R@-] IS (ALMOST) CERTAINLY A TYPO {ABCDEG}.

(4) SIMILARLY FOR THE ANOMOLOUS TRANSCRIPTION OF THE [O~] VOWEL IN 'RENONCA', IT WAS ATTRIBUTED TO EITHER A TYPO {ACDE} OR SOMETHING UNKNOWN AND AT BEST QUESTIONABLE {BG}.

(5) ALL THOSE WHO SPECIFICALLY COMMENTED COULD SEE NO REASON FOR THE LENGTHENED [I] IN ''ILS SONT TOMBE'S'' {BCEFG}.

ON THE SUBJECT OF [A], THERE WAS MORE DIVERSITY, THOUGH ALL AGREED THAT THE TRANSCRIPTION GIVEN IN THE HANDBOOK IS PROBABLY WRONG. SEVERAL RESPONDENTS ARGUED FOR [AA] RATHER THAN [A:], APPARENTLY ON PERCEPTUAL/ARTICULATORY RATHER THAN PURELY THEORETICAL GROUNDS {BCEF}.

FURTHER ISSUES AND RESEARCH
- -------------------------

A COUPLE OF OTHER ISSUES WERE RAISED IN PASSING WHICH I'D LIKE TO MENTION HERE AND GIVE MY OPINION ON.

FIRSTLY, IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT THAT THE TRANSCRIPTION GIVEN IS SOMEWHHAT INCONSISTENT IN ITS TREATMENT OF ENCHAINEMENT/LIAISON CONSONANTS (''QUANT ILS ONT'' [KA~T ILZO~] BUT ''VOYAGEUR ECHAUFFE''' [VWAJA3OE RE]). ALTHOUGH I WOULD DISAGREE THAT THE CONSONANT SHOULD
NECESSARILY BE TRANSCRIBED ON THE BEGINNING OF THE FOLLOWING WORD (AS INSISTED UPON BY MANY TEXTBOOKS/ TEACHERS), SINCE (A) IT IS QUESTIONABLE WHETHER THE CONSONANT CAN BE UNIQUELY IDENTIFIED WITH A SINGLE SYLLABLE POSITION AT A PARTICULAR STAGE IN THE
DERIVATION; AND (B) THE TRANSCRIPTION IS NOT ON THE WHOLE GIVING INFORMATION ABOUT SYLLABIFICATION IN ANY CASE, THE DIFFERENCE IN TRANSCRIPTION DOES HERE SEEM SOMEWHAT ANOMALOUS. PARTICULARLY AS IT IS SPECIFICALLY [R] WHICH A PRIORI SEEMS MORE LIKELY TO SHOW SOME SURFACE EFFECT ON THE END OF THE FIRST WORD IN, SAY, HESITATION ''VOYAGEUR... ECHAUFFE'''.

SECONDLY, THE MATTER OF VOWEL LENGTHENING BEFORE CERTAIN FINAL CONSONANTS HAS BEEN RAISED. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FINAL WORD OF THE PASSAGE TRANSCRIBED, 'FORT', IS GIVEN WITHOUT A LENGTH MARK ON THE VOWEL. TRADITIONALLY, IT IS ASSUMED THAT VOWELS ARE LENGTHENED BEFORE TONE-UNIT-FINAL CLOSED SYLLABLES WHOSE FINAL CONSONANTAL POSITION IS FILLED ENTIRELY
BY VOICED FRICATIVE(S) (AND THAT CERTAIN VOWELS ARE PRONE TO LENGTHENING IN ANY ONE-UNIT-FINAL CLOSED SYLLABLE). I HAVE PERSONALLY BEEN UNCONVINCED FOR SOME TIME THAT THIS ASSUMPTION IS ACTUALLY BORNE OUT BY THE SPEECH PATTERNS OF MANY (YOUNGER?) SPEAKERS,
EITHER SIMPLY BECAUSE THE LENGTHENING DOESN'T TAKE PLACE TO THE SAME DEGREE OR WITH THE SAME CONSISTENCY AS HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN ASSUMED, OR ELSE BECAUSE A PROCESS OF ENCHAINEMENT MOVES THE FRICATIVE (OR FINAL CONSONANT) FROM THE END OF THE TONE UNIT TO THE
BEGINNING OF THE NEXT (THIS WOULDN'T NECESSARILY VIE WITH THE PHONOLOGICAL CONSTRAINT MENTIONED, BUT IT WOULD RAISE QUESTIONS AS TO WHY THIS ENCHAINEMENT ACROSS TUNE UNIT BOUNDARIES WAS TAKING PLACE).

ANY COMMENTS ON THESE TWO ISSUES WOULD BE WELCOMED.

FINALLY, IN LIGHT OF MANY OF THE ISSUES RAISED IN THIS DISCUSSION, I WOULD BE KEEN TO CARRY OUT SOME INFORMAL SPECTROGRAPHIC ANALYSES AT SOME POINT TO TRY AND CONCRETISE SOME OF THE SUGGESTIONS/ SUSPICIONS. I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN HEARING FROM ANYBODY WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO ASSIST IN MAKING RECORDINGS OF NATIVE SPEAKERS. I STRESS THAT AT THE MOMENT, I ENVISAGE THIS ON A FAIRLY INFORMAL BASIS (E.G. RECORDINGS MADE WITH A REASONABLE-QUALITY
SOUND CARD AND MICROPHONE AND E-MAILED TO ME AS A WAV FILE WOULD BE FINE). IF ANYBODY THINKS THEY MIGHT BE WILLING TO HELP OUT, THEN PERHAPS THEY COULD E-MAIL ME. IF I CAN GET ENOUGH RECORDINGS, THEN I'LL BE HAPPY TO COLLATE/ANALYSE.

NEIL COFFEY
10 DECEMBER 1999

NOTES
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[1] A POSSIBLE EXCEPTION THAT SPRINGS TO MIND IS THE LOANWORD '(E-)MAIL', WHICH SEEMS TO ALLOW BOTH [E] AND [E]. IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO SEE WHETHER SPEAKERS ADMITTED [E] IN CLOSED SYLLABLE AS A PLAUSIBLE PRONUNCIATION OF OTHER LOANS IN CASES WHERE THE NORMAL PRONUNCIATION AVOIDED IT (CF. ''GAME GEAR'', NORMALLY PRONOUNCED [GEM3IR] OR ''GAME BOY'', NORMALLY PRONOUNCED [GAMBOJ]).

REFERENCES
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HANSEN, 1998, 'LES VOYELLES NASALES DU FRANCAIS PARISIEN MODERNE', MUSEUM TUSCULANUM PRESS, UNIV. OF COPENHAGEN.

-
NEIL COFFEY WWW: HTTP://OX.COMPSOC.NET/~NEIL/
NEIL@OX.COMPSOC.NET FAX: +44 870 0553 662

LL Issue: 10.1908
Date Posted: 11-Dec-1999
Original Query: Read original query