I'm confused by ɛ̃, as in pain, vin, cinq, etc.

Often, and that's what I'm taught, you are told to pronounce it as the a in "and".

  • cinq (first pronunciation)

However, sometimes it is pronounced very differently in my ears. Vin is such a word.

To me, the ɛ̃ is pronounced differently in these two cases. Could someone please enlighten me on how things are?


There definitely are variants in the pronunciation of that sound. It depends on things like the age of the speaker and where they come from. I don't hear that much difference between the two examples you link, but truthfully I don't have a very good ear for differences between sounds. However, the phoneme /ɛ̃/ of French is usually realized quite a bit lower (closer to an "a" sound) than the vowel phoneme /ɛ/ (and depending on your dialect of English, possibly lower than the sound in "and" as well, so that's not a great reference point). The phonetic sound is often transcribed [æ̃], which is closest to a nasalized version of the sound in the English word "lad" or "lab".

  • That's interesting. Here is an audio file that emphasize the difference I hear. It's the word vin. Which do you think sound more correct? Or is either fine? clyp.it/lgc5ygcf – Mumfi May 4 '15 at 12:06
  • I think the first of the pair sounds better -- the second sounds a little too close to /ɑ̃/ to me. However, I am not a native speaker, so you might want some input from one of them as well. If you want to get input from more people, it might help if you de-accepted my answer; I wouldn't mind. Of course, if you're satisfied now you can leave the accept as well. – sumelic May 4 '15 at 15:24
  • I don't think this question is getting anymore attention. Thank you for your time. – Mumfi May 4 '15 at 16:22

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