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Is the E in the end of monosyllabic words like je, le, ce, ne and que pronounced [ø] , [œ] or [ə] ? It seems I hear different sounds, depending on the sentence and on the speaker.

Examples:

  • le garçon [lø]
  • Il te le dit [lə]
  • IMHO, they should all be pronouced in the same way (I do). That said there are many different accents in France, and pronouciation may vary, but they should not. (quite like é sometimes pronouced ai when it should not) – OznOg Jun 13 at 19:13
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/ə/ is the pronunciation given by TLFi, so in theory it should be used. However, in practice, this may change to /ø/ or /œ/ depending on the speaker and the context in which the schwa appears. This is discussed in detail on English Wikipedia. In particular:

Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006) state, more specifically, that it merges with /ø/ before high vowels and glides […] in phrase-final stressed position […] and that it merges with /œ/ elsewhere.

[…] Pronouncing [ə] as [œ] is a way to emphasise the syllable.

The exact pronunciation of the schwa is addressed in a number of academic papers, including in "On the phonetic identity of French schwa compared to /ø/ and /œ/" by Fougeron, Gendrot, and Bürki.

This variability in the phonetic identity of schwa has in fact been reported in many descriptions in the literature. Its pronunciation has been said to vary between [œ] and [ø] depending on speakers, varieties of French, and segmental contexts (Delattre 47, 64; Tranel 87, Valdman 70).

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