I thought that AU in French was always pronounced /o/, but Collins dict (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/french-english/restaurant), Word Reference dict (https://www.wordreference.com/fren/restaurant) and Wiktionary (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/restaurant) say that the AU in the French word "restaurant" is pronounced /ɔ/. Is that indeed the correct pronunciation?


2 Answers 2


One cannot say that the AU digraph (or the EAU trigraph ) is always pronounced /o/ in French. /o/ is only the most common pronunciation. AU/EAU is indeed almost always pronounced /o/ when standing alone (au, eau) or at the end of a word (bureau, beau). But there can be regional differences. One of the source I give states that /ɔ/ can be heard at the end of a word in some eastern parts of France, Belgium and Switzerland.

When in the middle of a word we hear more varied pronunciations according to geographical areas. For example in France gauche would be pronounced [go:ʃ] by someone with a northern accent and [gɔ:ʃ] by someone with a southern accent. But when the AU digraph is followed by the consonant /ʁ/, the usual pronunciation, notwithstanding the origin of the speaker, is /ɔʁ/, therefore [ʁɛstɔʁɑ̃] being given in most dictionaries.

The most common pronunciation, of the name Paul is [pɔl] in all parts of France, whereas its feminine counterpart Paule is pronounced [poːl]. This has a historical reason: the name used to be written Pol and the pronunciation has survived the modified spelling.

http://research.jyu.fi/phonfr/Manuel_2011.html#6.15. (6.15. & 6.16)

  • 1
    Il est parfaitement clair pour moi en effet que je (au Qc.) ne prononce pas ce son de la même manière en comparant restaurant et resto.
    – user19187
    Jun 19, 2019 at 17:28
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    @suiiurisesse Same here. I (in France) say resto/restau [ʁɛsto] (both spellings found this side of the Atlantic) but [ʁɛstɔʁɑ̃].
    – None
    Jun 19, 2019 at 17:43
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    Même /ɔ/ ouvert dans restaurant et resto pour moi en Belgique, si tu voulais une confirmation de la présence du phonème en finale absolue de mot ici. D'ailleurs, la graphie resto est de loin préférée à restau, puisqu'elle représente mieux la prononciation locale Jun 19, 2019 at 22:30
  • @Eauquidort Peut-être même qu'au Québec j'entends d'autres variations mais je sais pas si c'est marqué /œ/, /ə/ ou /ø/. Je suis incapable d'assimiler les différences que ça évoque.
    – user19187
    Jun 19, 2019 at 23:06

The standard pronunciation is /ɔ/; that's the pronunciation in the TLFi; it is then the same as that of "restaure" (/ɔ:/) and "restaurateur". Nevertheless, according to the same source, [-sto-] is a possibility for "restaurer".There must be cases of "au" being pronounced /o/ in "restaurant", as I find that my own pronunciation tends towards /o/.

By listening carefully to the "au" in the second source (wordreference) it can be noticed that while the sound is written /ɔ/, the actual pronunciation is very near that of /o/.

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    Can you please define what you mean by "standard"?
    – None
    Jun 18, 2019 at 17:51
  • I consider that if it is given by the TLFi it is an ideal pronunciation, a dominant one that most people would like to impose as the unique pronunciation (so as to strive towards uniformity), but I might not be quite right, as you seem to disagree.
    – LPH
    Jun 18, 2019 at 17:58
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    My personal opinion is that there are several varieties of spoken French and that none is better than the other and should be "imposed". How dreary if we all looked and sounded alike!
    – None
    Jun 18, 2019 at 18:11
  • @Laure You 're taking up the defence of diversity, I see … Yes, diversity has its points, but we've rejected the diversity of various ancient languages and we are quite glad in France not to have to speak both "la langue d'Oïl" and "la langue d'Oc". I don't think all pronunciations have the same merit; I've found a lot of people, themselves from the south of France, that would find heavy meridional accents rather substandard, accents to be abandonned. Although there is a matter of personal taste involved, I do believe in a "some theory" of superior accents (a very vague idea, though).
    – LPH
    Jun 18, 2019 at 18:29
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    That's not vague, that's supremacism. It's not unusual for people who have been oppressed etc. by others to adopt their point of view about their superiority. In Quebec French we have a word pertaining to sociology which I find related to this phenomenon : colonisé « Personne ayant assimilé et intégré une vision d'elle-même selon laquelle son groupe ethnique ou national est inférieur à un autre en particulier, ou aux autres en général. » I can't downvote a comment, otherwise I would yours.
    – user19187
    Jun 18, 2019 at 19:51

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