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I can't find anything on the rules on how to pronounce two nasal vowels after each other.

In the case of

Il se trouve dans un internat.

How would you prounounce this "dans un internat"? I assume there is a liaison between dans and un, but between un and internat I'm not so sure. Should you nasalize the sounds as usual, but squeeze in an "n" that is otherwise forbidden to pronounce?

  • There is indeed a nasalization followed by an "n": [dɑ̃zœ̃n‿ɛ̃tɛʁna] in Southern France, French speaking Switzerland, Eastern Belgium, and [dɑ̃zɛ̃n‿ɛ̃tɛʁna] in the remaining part of France, including Paris. – jlliagre Nov 2 '17 at 19:09
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There is no general rule preventing a nasal vowel from ever coming before another vowel. Sequences of a nasal vowel followed by any other vowel are rare in French, but not impossible. The examples I can think of all occur between words.

For example, "mission impossible" would be pronounced with /ɔ̃/ followed by /ɛ̃/. There is no consonant in between in standard French.

In contexts where liaison is mandatory or possible, the liaison may prevent such a sequence from arising between words. But the use of liaison is not just based on phonology, but also on grammatical structure and the identity of the specific words involved. (For example, "mission impossible" cannot have liaison because liaison between a singular noun and a following adjective is forbidden.)

As you mention, the liaison rule for the preposition "dans" is that it takes the consonant /z/ when it is used before a phrase starting with a vowel. This is traditionally classified as an obligatory liaison, although I believe I have read that there are some accents where it is no longer always made.

The liaison rule for "un" is that it takes the consonant /n/ when it is used before a phrase starting with a vowel, with no denasalization of the nasal vowel.

In some other words that end with nasal vowels, the vowel may be denasalized before the liaison consonant /n/. (I forget exactly which words these are, but Wikipedia provides a description that seems to agree with Stéphane Gimenez's comment below, and there is a separate question about this topic: How are nasal vowels denasalized during liaison?)

You just need to learn how each construction works. Liaisons don't all behave the same way.

Within a single word, when a vowel-initial suffix is used, an original word-final nasal vowel is generally replaced by a non-nasal vowel followed by /n/. See the examples "cancaner /kɑ̃kane/ from cancan /kɑ̃kɑ̃/; ronronner /ʁõʁɔne/ from ronron /ʁõʁõ/" mentioned by Eau qui dort in a comment on my answer to the Linguistics SE question "Which epenthetic sounds are most common to separate vowels?". So a word like "ronronnant" doesn't have a sequence of two nasal vowels; it is pronounced with /n/ (/ʁõʁɔnɑ̃/).

The specific example "Il se trouve dans un internat" would be transcribed as /ilsətʁuvdɑ̃zœ̃nɛ̃tɛʁna/ or /ilsətʁuvdɑ̃zɛ̃nɛ̃tɛʁna/.

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    Concerning the 6th paragraph, un bon ami is a good example. But I believe it happens to some extent with most (if not all) words that end with a liaised nasal, except for articles, prepositions and the few small grammatical words like possessives. – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 2 '17 at 19:57
  • @StéphaneGimenez I've read reports of the possessive articles denasalising before a vowel, ie "mon ami" pronounced as /mɔnami/ but this isn't much done anymore, at least in my accent. I'll take advantage of this comment to mention "en en entendant", perhaps my favourite word in French (/ɑ̃nɑ̃nɑ̃tɑ̃dɑ̃/) – Eau qui dort Jan 3 '18 at 19:38

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