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Today my teacher said that you are able to say "quelle école". I don't understand how this is done because there are two vowels in a row. When I asked her, she wasn't able to explain the details. Maybe you don't hear the vowel at the end of "quelle", or is there really two distinct vowels?

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    There is no vowel at the end of quelle: quelle école alternates vowel and consonant sounds. But pronouncing two vowels in a row isn't difficult: vowels are ”stable“ (I don't know what the linguistics term is), you can keep pronouncing them for any amount of time. Consecutive vowels do occur in French. Could you clarify what your difficulty is? What is your native language? – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Sep 25 '14 at 7:10
  • You should rephrase your question trying to make distinguish between "vowels" (that is to say letters of the alphabet) and "vowel sounds" which are different things. You can refer to to the IPA for reference. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Sep 25 '14 at 7:18
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In French as spoken in the north of France and in particularly in Quebec, the letter e at the end of a word does not always call for a vowel sound. If you listen to one of these speakers you will not be able to tell the difference between quel [kɛl] or quelle [kɛl] nor between seul [sœl] and seule [sœl], among many other gender dependent examples. It can however become a vowel if too many consonants are around, usually starting from 3 or more, like in notre liberté. It's realization can be anything between a mid-central vowel [ə] or a rounded [œ] or [ø], but in any case it is never stressed. Some speakers also tend not to add any vowel at all and drop liquid consonants instead: /'nɔtʁ(ə) libɛːʁte/ is pronounced [nɔt libɛːʁte], arbre /aʁbʁ(ə)/ is pronounced [aʁb], etc.

Your example quelle école does not contain long clusters of consonants and is therefore simply pronounced [kɛl‿ekɔl]. Only one vowel is heard between the two words.

The pronunciation is approximately the same in the south of France and in Swiss and Belgian varieties of French but for different reasons. In these regions there is a perceptible difference between quel [kɛl] and quelle ['kɛlə] or seul [sœl] and seule ['sœlə], etc. Notice again that the stress is never on the final /ə/ and that its realization is close to a mid-central vowel [ə]. This sound is so neutral that it is disappears completely if any vowel comes before or after. The only perceivable change could be the length of the vowel. It is reported that this length difference is somewhat noticeable in Swiss and Belgian pronunciations.

Quelle école could therefore be pronounced [kɛl‿kɔlə], with a still single but slightly longer vowel. Diphthongs are reported in the Swiss variety when the /ə/ comes after the vowel, but in this case I don't think a diphthong ever occurs (please comment if you know about this).


Everything about these /ə/ is explained in French here: http://www.projet-pfc.net/le-francais-explique/le-e-muet

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Having two vowel sounds in a row does not hinder the pronunciation of French but the fact that when you say

quelle école  
/kɛl   ekɔl/

you only hear one vowel sound is explained by the fact that the letter "e" at the end of "quelle" is not sounded. Usually the final "e" of a word is not sounded in French unless it is the only vowel in the word. (As in "le").

Therefore feminine

quelle   
/kɛl/

is pronounced the same as masculine

quel   
/kɛl/

When you pronounce "quelle école" you do not pronounce the letter "e" at the end of "quelle" and the vowel "é" is pronounced /e/ at the beginning of "école" making a liaison with the preceding /l/ sound.

It is the same with a word starting with a different vowel sound

quelle activité   
/kɛl   aktivite/ 

Your confusion might arise from the fact that sometimes in French we elide the "e" for pronunciation purposes, such as at the end of "le" and "de" when the next word begins with a vowel sound:

  • le arbre l'arbre
  • la orange l'orange
  • je ne veux pas de oranges d'oranges
  • Why code blocks? – Édouard Sep 25 '14 at 11:09
  • @Édouard parce que sur FL ils n'ont pas leur utilité et ça permet de prendre en compte les espaces et ainsi d'aligner verticalement. Nous le faisons sur les autres sites de langues et pourquoi FL ne le ferait-il pas ? – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Sep 25 '14 at 11:19
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    Parce que les blocs de codes sont marqués sémantiquement en HTML comme du code. Parce qu’apparemment (je n’y suis pas personnellement confronté) certains logiciels de synthèse vocale lisent les blocs de code caractères par caractères. Certes, les blocs de citation sont marqués comme citation mais, selon moi, les conséquences sont moins graves. – Édouard Sep 26 '14 at 0:04

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