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I'm learning French, and from what I've heard, it seems that:

  • c'est un is pronounced /sɛ tœ̃ /, but
  • c'est une is pronounced /sɛ tʃyn/,

with a /tʃ/ as in cheese. I heard this difference both in Duolingo and Forvo (un, une).

Is this the case in standard Parisian dialect? Why does it happen, and when?

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I don't hear /tʃ/ in that une forvo recording, btw. –  RainDoctor Nov 22 '13 at 23:52

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

TL;DR : this is not a standard pronunciation. Even @Gilles can't picture anyone pronouncing [tʃ] or [ts]1.

In Français Standard, it should be [sɛtyn], [tʃ] is a common variant in Cajun French and in varieties of rural France, especially in informal speech. Québécois and Acadien use [ts], which is quite close and may be related.

As for why, I am not really sure, but I suspect it is a case of mouillure or palatalisation: it happens in many mothereses in French, and in some cases in informal speech that an occlusive consonant before a front vowel is palatalised as in [k]→[kʲ]

Qui c'est ce bébé ? [kisesəbebe]

Can be pronounced [kʲisesəbebe] in motherese. I have been told by a Basque teacher that this palatalization can be mandatory in Basque when addressing relatives or close friends.

Then, as time goes by, this pronunciation can evolve to [kʃ] or [tʃ]. The same thing happened to the initial [k] Latin cabalus

[k] > [kʲ] > [tʲ] > [tʃ] > [ʃ]

which is how c​abalus became ch​eval.

Since Cajun, and in a lesser measure Québécois inherited more from informal French, it could be how [cɛtyn] became [cɛtʃyn].

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Just to clarify: this is not a standard thing. I (mostly Parisian or thereabouts) can't picture anyone pronouncing [tʃ] or [ts]. –  Gilles Feb 17 '13 at 18:23

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