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I was reading a book out loud and thought it sounded odd to pronounce as one syllable. Are you supposed to break it into two? It sounded ambiguous, as though homophonic to other words like queue.

  • It is pronounced as one syllable. What was the context that made it sound odd? – Teleporting Goat Jul 18 '18 at 8:35
  • When it is pronounced as two syllables (to emphasize the pronoun), it has to be written que eux, e.g. C'est que eux ont raison (colloquial). – jlliagre Jul 18 '18 at 9:08
  • Yes, it is ambiguous... if you only try to determine the meaning through how words is pronounced. I don't think "que", "qu'eux" and "queue" could even be confused in an actual sentence if you pay attention to the meaning. "Queue" is a noun, "que" is a conjunction/adverb/pronoun, "qu'eux" is a conjunction followed by a personal pronoun. You would have to craft a weird sentence to be able to put two of them in the same spot without changing anything else. Think about too/to/two in English. – Najib Idrissi Jul 18 '18 at 13:18
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    @NajibIdrissi It's not so odd, since qu'eux occurs in exactly the context where you'd have que. If I say, « Je suis beaucoup moins fort qu'eux ! » and you mishear it as que, your brain will hesitate « ... moins fort que quoi ? » The English examples actually have the same problem. "Yup, I need it too!" — "...need it to what?" – Luke Sawczak Jul 18 '18 at 14:12
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    @LukeSawczak EXACTLY! That's exactly what I was thinking when I asked this. – temporary_user_name Jul 18 '18 at 16:34
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Yup, the e in « que » is one that can be contracted and disappears entirely just like those in le, de, me, and so on. This leaves qu' exactly equivalent to k, no questions asked.

qu'eux /kø/

qu'elle /kɛl/

qu'on /kɔ̃/

qu'à /ka/

And so on. Unlike the usual « e muet », this is not even a sound that can be expanded if needed, for example to fit a melody or a poetic meter. Edit: However, according to jlliagre, it's possible to avoid making the contraction in the first place if you want to emphasize eux.

I think part of the oddness with qu'eux (which I find too) is the close acoustic fingerprint with que. Whereas que can't sit in strong, stressed places in a sentence (except maybe in « ne ... que »), qu'eux can, leading to what sounds like wrong stress and a premature end òf the sentence when the sounds are confused. Make sure you rhyme it with peu, not le.

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    !! today I learned: that indeed, as I had thought before, that "le" and "peu" have the same-sounding vowel .. in the France way of pronouncing words (according to wordreference). I didn't even know that they sound different in the Québec way of pronouncing words!! – silph Jul 18 '18 at 6:03
  • @silph Even in terms of IPA notation, they are very slightly different sounds in French from France (le /lə/ ~ peu /pø/), but I agree that the recordings on WR make the difference more obvious: it sounds like the Québec speaker's /ø/ might be a little higher and fronter, while his /ə/ is a little laxer/lower, moving them further apart... – Luke Sawczak Jul 18 '18 at 14:18
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    /ə/ can have a variety of realisations. It's common in Canada and Belgium to pronounce it exactly like /œ/, France French tends to have it closer to [ø] in open syllables and [œ] in closed ones. The only reason to have /ə/ as a separate phoneme isn't its quality, but its unstable behaviour. The only place where it tends to be distinct in quality is Southern France and even there there's some varieties in the Southeast that back it toward [ɔ]. – Eau qui dort Jul 18 '18 at 17:55

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