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Comment est-il?

I don't know why, even tho I know that there is no linking 'W' sound in French as there is in English I still hear it between 'comment' and 'est' as if it were (/kɔ.mɑ̃ w ɛt.i.l/) and it has been driving me crazy so I'm wondering if what I hear is correct.

Here is a link to a video where I think the 'W' sound is pronounced when 'comment est-il' is said : https://youtu.be/V98BvCQrVeM

Note: I am not sure about the phonetic transcript. Feel free to correct it if it contains any mistakes.

  • 1
    There is not the least trace of a w sound after "comment" in either of the sources you mention; I've listened repeatedly; that is very strange. All that can be heard from Google translate is the somewhat blurred pronunciation of "il" (almost "i" instead of "il"). google – LPH Apr 24 at 16:12
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    Also, while the speaker in that video doesn't have any sort of -strong- accent, I'd guess they were not native speakers. That might be messing with your ear. – user13512 Apr 24 at 23:08
  • +1 pour la vidéo :) – lmc Apr 25 at 12:24
  • @Imc sorry, I can't get what you mean. – Manar Apr 25 at 16:08
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In both the video and Google Translate's pronunciation, I think I understand what you're hearing. It seems to be an implicit glide between the /ɑ̃/ and the /ɛ/ simply as a function of the first being further back: /ɑ/ is open back, whereas /ɛ/ is open-mid front.

If a speaker is not very careful to articulate each sound distinctly (as is normal in spoken language), you can get a "legato" effect. The tongue makes essentially the same motion by moving from back to front as it would make if you were intentionally articulating a /w/.1

However, /w/ is also labial and that feature is absent in both of those unrounded vowels, so it's not a full /w/. At least, that's true of the canonical vowels. One seemingly linguistically informed and France-centred resource claims that many French speakers do actually do some light lip-rounding on the first vowel.

I personally find it hard to tell whether rounding is happening based on your video, but it would better explain your perception of /w/. In any case, if you slow the video down to 0.5x speed, you'll hear more clearly what's happening.


1 The phenomenon of two consecutive vowels is called hiatus. If not resolved, it can lead to just this sort of confusion. One way to resolve it is a brief glottal stop, perceived as a pause between the vowels. Also common in French is liaison, at least where it's syntactically possible.

  • So if I understood correctly, in the video and Google Transelate's pronunciation there is a /w/ sound but it is not a full /w/ sound though because such sound require the lips and I should be careful ,when saying such sentence, to not say neither a /w/ sound or a half /w/ sound and to use a glottal stop instead or a liaison ,if it's possible. – Manar Apr 24 at 15:37
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    @Manar The best way is probably not to think about it at all. If you make those vowels right, you'll get the same effects automatically -- and native speakers won't be listening for it anyway, possibly not even aware of it. – Luke Sawczak Apr 24 at 16:23
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You answered your own question: there is not and there is no reason why there would be. Where did you hear this -- is this some specific accent perhaps?

  • Maybe as I sometimes hear it and sometimes not. Here in this video, for example, I hear it. youtu.be/V98BvCQrVeM – Manar Apr 24 at 15:18
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    @Manar Can you add that link to the question please? – Luke Sawczak Apr 24 at 15:22
  • In addition, when I typed it on 'google transelate' and listened to the audio of it being pronounced I heard the 'W' sound. I even recorded the audio and tried to hear it in a slower speed and still heard it. – Manar Apr 24 at 15:23

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