tourbillion: M-W's Word of the Day

Oberdan Otto

Message 21430 · 4 Jun 2000 09:20:32 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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>Years ago when I learned French I was told that French doesn't have
>stress or emphasis on syllables -- it just sounds that way to Anglophone
>ears. I was told that French lengthens the last syllable of a group of
>words, and to be careful not to put stress or emphasis,
>Anglophone-style, on any syllable of a French word. Perhaps things have
>changed in the last half-century or so.

Hmmm...Perhaps nothing has changed, and whoever told you that was
just full of Bologne (EmPHAsis or lengthening on the 2nd syllable).
Or what is lengthening to one person is emphasis or stress to
another--specifically those with "Anglophone ears", which makes this
a semantic issue, not a real one. Il n'y a pas de quoi.

However, in my first French lesson, I learned that "Je suis un
garcon"--with a definite emphasis on the "con" ending. Rather than
being lengthened, the "con" ending is rather short and sharp (and
nasal with the n not pronounced)--an exception that proves the rule???

Cheers, Oberdan.

P.S. For Pia: two correct spellings, tourbillion (the English version
and pronounced pretty much as an English person would) and
tourbillon, (the French version and pronounced as a French person
would). In French:

"tour": with the "ou" pronounced approximately as the "u" in the word
"rule", but maybe more of an "oooo" sound as in "who"; the vowel
sound is constant and does not wander as it does when we pronounce
the English word "tour" (i.e. no diphthong)--I think that is because
the French say the "r" with the back of the tongue instead of the
front so the shape of the sound resonator in the mouth does not
change!
"bi": pronounced as in a honey bee.
"ll": pronounced like the y in "yes".
"on": is a strong open nasal sound with no audible consonant stopping
it. There is no English equivalent. Almost all of the sound comes out
the nose, not the mouth because the back of the tongue blocks most of
the air flow through the mouth. The small amount of air through the
mouth allows for distinctions between the various nasal sounds the
French make, like the two in the word "chanson". The sound is stopped
by closing the esophagus with the neck muscles like you do when you
hum a tune. A French person with nasal congestion must have great
difficulty making him/herself understood!

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