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Is the ai in j'ai and finirai (I am assuming they are the same) pronounced exactly like the -er in infinitives: are manger and mangeai pronounced exactly the same?

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I think "portager" is a uniquely Quebecois word, whereas I have no idea what the meaning of "porta j'ai" could be ("porta" doesn't even seem to be a French word). Perhaps it would be more helpful for your example to use standard, grammatically correct, forms. –  Dave Sep 15 '11 at 11:05
I still think both questions ask "how do people pronounce the -ai ending"; but they do this by presupposing different answers: like -er (this question), or like -ais (the other). No one seems to have issues with how to pronounce -er or -ais at all. (I think I made it clear enough, with the help of M. Pivot, that I believe -ai should be like -er, so I'm not going to repeat it here). Anyway, for me, still duplicate. –  Joubarc Sep 15 '11 at 13:25
@Dave: I would have liked to, but nothing grammatical came up, so I hoped people would just read the words aloud to themselves and assess their pronunciation. If portager is uniquely Quebecois, that might be a problem... –  Cerberus Sep 15 '11 at 14:40
@Joubarc: I understand. I was taught in school to pronounce both digraphs exactly the same; but I was hoping there might be very subtle difference or something that might be revealed by reading words out loud (testing portager v. porta j'ai against a friend who should try to tell which one you're pronouncing, something like that). As it appears there is absolutely no difference at all, perhaps the question isn't interesting at all either. In any case, thanks for your answer. –  Cerberus Sep 15 '11 at 14:52
On the contrary, considering the debate on how to pronounce -ai, I would say that the question is extremely interesting; it's just that the difficult point of it is the same as the other question. Keep in mind that while in my answer and opinion, -ai should be pronounced the same way as -er-, not everyone seems to share that opinion. –  Joubarc Sep 15 '11 at 16:24
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both are the same close-mid front unrounded vowel ([e]). Continuing my own comparison of -ai and -ais endings using the verb grimper, notice that grimper is listed as having the same pronunciation as grimpé. (Note that they use SAMPA symbols, not IPA.)

Please see the rest of my answer for an audio example of the pronunciation -ai. The third segment of the dictation also has various samples of the pronunciation of the -er ending (for example, Ils se sont entraînés à en déjouer les pièges.)

That said, it seems not everybody uses this pronunciation of -ai so the people who pronounce it like -ais1 will indeed make a difference between -ai and -er (on which there is probably little discussion)

1. They're wrong :-)

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That depends on the speaker. I pronounce j'ai like jet (è sound, open-mid vowel) and mangeai like mangeais (è again) and to rhyme with mangerai but manger with an é sound (close-mid vowel). –  Gilles Sep 15 '11 at 12:07
Yeah, I forgot to add the "region-dependant" part. But I'm on Pivot's side. –  Joubarc Sep 15 '11 at 13:16
petite précision : il est belge ! En France il y a une différence. –  Knu Sep 16 '11 at 4:12
Pivot n'est pas Belge ;-) –  Joubarc Sep 16 '11 at 4:24
Non le problème vient du son j (dans infligeai) précédent qui modifie légèrement la prononciation du è (vers le é). D'ailleurs ça marche également dans l'autre sens le j dans déjouer modifie le son é (vers le è). Si tu prends des exemples sans ce son genre "prendrai" (è) et "peler" (é) ça devient évident. Cette réponse ne devrait pas être celle acceptée. –  Knu Sep 16 '11 at 16:32
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No, there's a slight difference in pronunciation between the two forms (although some people in france can't pronounce it differently) :

mangerai (will eat) is pronounced [ɛ] while manger (to eat) is pronounced [e].

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@Evpok - I think he just pronounces things differently. I'd use [e] for both anyway. –  Joubarc Sep 15 '11 at 11:21
I've never heard [ɛ] (the è sound) for an infinitive. –  Gilles Sep 15 '11 at 12:04
Me neither, but then again, I've never heard it for a simple past. –  Joubarc Sep 15 '11 at 13:20
@Joubarc, I've heard people who don't seem to make a difference between [ɛ] and [e], but with Gilles description of his own pronunciation I wonder if I'm not mistaken. There is an underlying question here and I'll ask it when I've time to spell it out. –  Un francophone Sep 15 '11 at 13:32
@Benjol: None. You are doomed. –  Evpok Sep 16 '11 at 7:58
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