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Is the pronunciation of "déjeuner" region-dependent?

  • Collins dict says the correct pronunciation is /deʒœne/

  • Wiktionary says it could be /deʒœne/ or /deʒøne/

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    It seems to me to be more a matter of transliteration than of variation in actual usage :-) – user13512 Jun 5 at 21:37
  • In Wiktionary, you should note the information might differ in the English language entry of a French language word from the French language entry for the same word so it's good practice to check both. – un3hiv3r Jun 5 at 22:00
  • From the French Wiktionary page: "Dans certaines régions (Franche-Comté par exemple), on le prononce \de.ʒø.ne\, ce qui est plus conforme à l’étymologie dé - jeûner.". – Teleporting Goat Jun 6 at 12:43
  • Actually it's weird that /deʒœne/ is presented as the correct one and /deʒøne/ the "alternative spoken in some regions". Because if I'm not mistaken, /deʒøne/ is what is said in the red part of the map below, and I thought it was the majority pronunciation. If I didn't read this question I would have advised to say with a /ø/, and I don't come from a region of France with a special accent. – Teleporting Goat Jun 6 at 13:13
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Dictionaries

They vary:

  • The TLFi presents the [œ] pronunciation first, but also gives a list of the choices made by various dictionaries in the past, including:

    • Spelling as déjeûner (to make it consistent with the [ø] pronunciation) in some dictionaries from the XVIIIth & XIXth Centuries, including the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française of 1740 and 1762 (earlier version, 1694 and 1718, had desjeuner, and later releases had the modern version déjeuner).
    • Pronunciation with [ø] for some dictionaries, either exclusive or as a possible variant of [œ].
    • There’s even the possibility of skipping the vowel altogether mentioned in a 1935 dictionary: [deʒne], in which the sound drifted initially to [ə] before being treated as a silent e.
  • Le Petit Robert has exclusively indicated the pronunciation [œ], for at least the 1980 to 2010 period. But the same publisher, in another dictionary, Le Dictionnaire culturel en langue française, published in 2005, indicated only [ø].

  • Hachette indicates [œ].


Usage

It varies as well. My pronunciation is pretty close to /deʒəne/, that of currently the only other user to have answered here is /deʒøne/. That is statistically insignificant, but it seems to be a reduced version of the diversity one would find if randomely asking French-speakers about their personal pronunciation.

Indeed, to add to the variety already shown in the dictionaries, there is an inquiry about oral French, for which data acquisition is still taking place at this time (June 2109), but whose preliminary results shown on this page are already quite clear:

  • The distinction between /ø/ et /œ/ doesn’t take a fixed form and varies by region;
  • Its variations can be mapped surprisingly clearly, here is an example of a pair of words, one of which is rather closely related to the question.

enter image description here

This simple picture using a two-colour scale might make it appear like a dipole where two linguistic habits are delimited, but reality is actually more complex. Two comments made below this answer hint at how diverse the local realities could be:

(About the lower blue part of the map) It's not that there is no distinction between [ø] and [œ] in this area, but rather that there is no distinction between /ø/ and /œ/, as their realization is regularized (similarly to the other vowels) to [ø] in open syllables and [œ] in closed ones. Which means jeune and jeûne use [œ] while déjeuner uses [ø].
   Stéphane Gimenez

Belgium usually shows the contrast, but that pair is consistently realised [ʒœːn] or [ʒœ̃ːn] (and déjeuner has an /œ/ too), while the blue part of Switzerland has both as /ʒøn/.
   Eau qui dort

The Dictionnaire culturel en langue française, cited earlier, also have a special mention about the pair of phonems [œ] and [ø] at the beginning, where they present the pronunciation standards for the dictionary as a whole. It states that there are (as of 2005) two diverging tendancies at work in spoken French regarding these two phonems:

  • A first tendancy would stick to one sound for any specific root, making sure pairs like aveugler/aveugle agree (the default presented is /œ/);
  • A second tendancy where the position of the sound in the final syllable of the word would close the vowel (making the pair /avœɡle/ and /avøɡl/).

This can actually be used to further show how usage vary in the real world. To my French Canadian ears, all this sounded very strange, since the vast majority of Quebecquers will pronounce aveugler and all its conjugated forms as /avøɡle/, while we have a split lot over aveugle adjective or noun (I feel /avøɡl/ was more present up to the 80’s, before it started eroding away as /avœɡl/ was gaining popularity, but though the current state of affair might be transitional, both pronunciations are currently present).


Conclusion

It looks like there is no consensus, and therefore no right or wrong answer to this.

The best bet for a native speaker is to go with what they are used to or what they feel comfortable with given the immediate social environment.

For learners of the French language, it’s probably best to try to replicate the way it is pronouced by locals if on a visit, or by their teachers and/or francophone contacts otherwise.

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    (About the lower blue part of the map) It's not that there is no distinction between [ø] and [œ] in this area, but rather that there is no distinction between /ø/ and /œ/, as their realization is regularized (similarly to the other vowels) to [ø] in open syllables and [œ] in closed ones. Which means jeune and jeûne use [œ] while déjeuner uses [ø]. – Stéphane Gimenez Jun 5 at 21:13
  • @StéphaneGimenez I'm always unsure about the symbology, and always too lazy to go and check. Thanks for the extra bit as well. – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 5 at 22:24
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    Be careful about generalising from a single pair of words. Not all of the area where jeune=jeûne in thats map neutralises /ø/ and /œ/ everywhere. In particular, Belgium usually shows the contrast, but that pair is consistently realised [ʒœːn] or [ʒœ̃ːn] (and dejeuner has an /œ/ too), while the blue part of Switzerland has both as /ʒøn/. This just adds to what you were saying about the large amount of dialectal variation present here – Eau qui dort Jun 6 at 7:10
  • @Eauquidort Could we then state that the distinction and local realizations don't have a fixed form? I also read this morning that there are opposite tendancies regarding the treatment of the pair: some areas would keep the realization uniform for a certain root (aveugler/aveugle both in /ø/), while others would vary when the sound is in the final syllable of a word. – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 6 at 12:08
  • @Eauquidort I copied part of your useful comment as is in my answer. Hope you're okay with that, and thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion. – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 6 at 12:40
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As the TLFi gives /ʒœn/ for "jeune" and /ʒøne/ for "jeuner" and that I agree with that after having heard the vowels from the wiktionary, as the TLFi also gives /deʒøne/ for "déjeuner" with which my pronunciation also agrees, I think you should say /deʒøne/; however, it is quite possible to find /deʒœne/, that's the pronunciation of certain people in certain régions, although not necessarily of all; for instance this usage is asserted by the TLFi for "heureuse" : [øʀø], fem. [øʀø:z] ou [œ].

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    I think you shouldn't recommend your own pronounciation as the right one. Vast regions of the francophone world use /deʒœne/, and dictionaries like Le Petit Robert & Hachette also recommend it. People using a foreign language should aim at pronouncing the way people of the area they visit or live in pronounce, or whichever way consistent with that of the native people they learn from. – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 5 at 17:50
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    The TLFi doesn't limit itself to your pronounciation, it mentions primarily the other, the one you dare call “the worst”. So much for open-mindedness! – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 5 at 17:59
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    I'd like to see an answer that contains actual information besides what the dictionaries say. For example where are the different pronunciations from and what are the circumstances that led to different pronunciations. – Stéphane Gimenez Jun 5 at 17:59
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    Tu te fies aux commentaires sur la prononc. et l'orth. de l'entrée jeûne pour dire que le TLFi donne /deʒøne/ pour déjeuner. Il dit plutôt pour le substantif : « [deʒ œne]. Pour [ø:] fermé long à la 2esyll. et pour la graph. déjeûner, cf. déjeuner(1) » et pour le verbe « [deʒ œne], (je) déjeune [deʒ œn]. [ø] fermé long d'apr. jeûne ds. [...] ». Ton propos est imprécis, voire tendancieux. – un3hiv3r Jun 5 at 22:06
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    Le TLFi n'est plus mis à jour depuis 25 ans... Les usages en matière de prononciation peuvent évoluer rapidement, le TLFi est donc à prendre avec des pincettes sur ce point. – Greg Jun 6 at 4:43

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