8

One of the things that I appreciate as a French Learner is that words in French are so easy to pronounce. Unlike in English, where letters can be pronounced many different ways, and you have no way of knowing other than by being familiar with the word (for example, all these words are pronounced differently: cough, tough, bough, though, through), French instead seems to only have one pronounciation for each letter or vowel-letter-pair.

However, the pronounciation of "dessin" surprises me. It sounds like "déssin" instead of the first vowel sounding like "de", as I would have expected.

  1. Is there a pronounciation rule in "dessin" that applies to other words, or is it only for the word "dessin"?
  2. Historically, why is this one of the exceptions, where "de" isn't always pronounced the same?
  • 3
    French is far more regular than English in this department, but it's not perfectly regular; compare fils "son" and fils "threads", with different pronunciations. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer for dessin. – Luke Sawczak Dec 21 '17 at 5:58
  • @LukeSawczak: as an FSL, seeing such counterexamples does help my brain twist itself to become more flexible / adapted to this new language. thanks for the "fils" example. – silph Dec 21 '17 at 9:57
  • Courteline, starting at the bottom of p.84, a poet that made himself a humorist for a moment, and Allais, a humorist who occasionally played with rhymes, both had a go at having the irregularities of French sticking out in hilarious un-rhyming verses. – ﺪﺪﺪ Dec 21 '17 at 13:23
  • I'm going to upvote this question cause it had me realize I may have prounounced it wrong my whole life... – Laurent S. Dec 22 '17 at 21:09
3

The rule is that "e" is pronounced "é" or "è" when in the middle of a syllable, and "e" (like in "de") when at the end of a syllable. Syllables always split double letters, so we have "des-sin", and the first "des" is pronounced just like the word "des".

  • so there is no way to know if, when pronounced like "é" or "è"', which of these two it more likely will be (for most french-speaking people)? – silph Dec 22 '17 at 9:59
  • I can say that usually when this is the last pronounced syllable, it is "è" ("presse") and when there's another pronounced syllable after it seems to be "é" ("pression") but that might differ among accents or words. – Quentin Ruyant Dec 22 '17 at 10:48
  • I think "è" can always be used. For example it's given as a possible pronounciation in "pression" here fr.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/pression – Quentin Ruyant Dec 22 '17 at 10:51
7
  1. Yes silph, there is a rule: when the "e" is followed by a pair of consonants, you say "é" like in "dessin, pression" or "è" like in "belle, bretelle, parisienne, guerre"...

  2. Well, because it's french :P and there are lot of exceptions about etymology and word evolution through ages.

  • 5
    I pronounce the e in pression like an è, not an é. – KPM Dec 21 '17 at 8:25
  • What about the words des, mes, tes, ses, les... These words aren't followed by a pair of consonants and are pronounced "é". – georges619 Dec 21 '17 at 8:46
  • 3
    @georges619 <es> in monosyllabic words is always é or è, that's another predictable rule. What isn't is predicting whether the e will be open (è) or closed (é), because that will differ by dialect. I have è in all the words cited in the answer, as well as des, mes, etc. – Eau qui dort Dec 21 '17 at 11:11
  • 4
    That said, the sequence <ess> is ambiguous because sometimes the <ss> will be used to indicate /s/ instead of /z/, but the preceding e is still mute, for example ressac (/ʀəsak/, not /ʀɛsak/). Compare with reserrer (/ʀəsɛʀe/, not /ʀəzɛʀe/) – Eau qui dort Dec 21 '17 at 11:18
  • Indeed; this is not just a phonological question but a morphophonological one. – Luke Sawczak Dec 27 '17 at 14:00
0

There is a rule for accenting.

When trying to accent an "e", you'll write "è" whenever the vowel in the following syllable is a single "e" that's either deaf or is pronounced "e", and you'll write "é" otherwise (ignoring the circumflex case).

That's for consistency reasons with this rule that the 1990 reform corrected "événement" into "évènement", changed the accenting in the future tense ("céder + ai" now is written "cèderai" instead of "céderai"), and in those unused "dussé-je" now written "dussè-je".

The two-identical consonants in "dessin" are preventing the accenting of the "e", but the pronunciation is consistent with the accenting rule.

0

Accent sur E : É ou È ?

E dernière lettre d’un mot : É

« Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ».

E à la fin d’un mot et suivi d’un s au singulier : È

décès, après.

— si la syllabe suivante contient un e muet : on prononce le EÈ, sinon il si prononce É, et on supprime l’accent si le E est suivi de deux consonnes

È : La guerre est mère de douleurs.

É : Des dessins dépouillés.

Ê et Ë sont des E accentués qui observent d’autres règles.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.