1

Are there any rules to help one know when to pronounce the letter "e" open and when to pronounce it closed? For instance, could I have known, when seeing the word agression for the first time, that it was to be pronounced /agʀesjɔ̃/, and not /agʀɛsjɔ̃/?

Furthermore, Le Petit Robert transcribes the pronunciation of the word terrorisme with an closed "e" – /teʀɔʀism/; the Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary does so with an open "e" – /tɛʀɔʀism/. What could be the reason for this dissonance?

  • I pronounce it /e/ (like everyone?) but now that you ask, I'd say it should be /ɛ/ since I've learned the letter e is pronounced /ɛ/ before double consonant. And the CNRTL says the same: cnrtl.fr/definition/terroriste – Destal Nov 18 '19 at 18:20
  • Thank you for your answer! I edited the question, adding the example of agression, without having seen your comment. Coincidentally, it is a word with an "e" before a double consonant and it's pronounced /e/. Would it be just an exception to the rule you mentioned? – nib Nov 18 '19 at 18:30
  • I don't know if it's an exception or if I'm just totally wrong about such a rule. I'll check. – Destal Nov 18 '19 at 18:52
  • I checked a bit and I'm not sure there is such a rule, as jlliagre said I think it's more a regional thing. But not for all words, for most of them it would just sound wrong to not use the right pronunciation. – Destal Nov 18 '19 at 21:54
  • 1
    Voir aussi cette question. – Un francophone Nov 19 '19 at 10:11
5

Whether you pronounce /e/ or /ɛ/ in agression, terrorisme and many other words doesn't make that much a difference. There are regional or just personal variations so native speakers might use one or the other.

For example, here is a map showing if raisonner is more pronounced /re.../ (dark blue) or /rɛ.../ (light blue) depending on the département of origin:

enter image description here

In any case, even if you use a vowel that is seldom used for a given word, for example /uver/ instead of the mainstream /uvɛr/ for ouvert (open), everyone will understand you.

Source: https://cartopho.limsi.fr/

  • Plutôt "férmè" ou "ouvért" ? ;) – Destal Nov 18 '19 at 21:52
  • @Destal faut-il qu'une porte soit ? – jlliagre Nov 18 '19 at 23:51
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    This Cartopho website is such an interesting ressource! Thanks, @jlliagre – nib Nov 19 '19 at 19:00
-2

I think I can say that your "Robert" has a mistake, because I own the "Grand Robert", edition of 1985, and in my Robert, "terrorisme" is given with [ɛ]. And in fact, before a double consonant, the letter "e" has to be pronounced that way ("terre", for example). The fact of pronouncing it [e] is a often a childish mistake and not an academic possibility.

  • 1
    As @jlliagre showed, there is lot of regional variation between [ɛ] and [e]. Calling one of them "childish mistake" does not seem warranted. – Un francophone Nov 20 '19 at 16:00
  • vous êtes un censeur bien sévère et un peu présomptueux d'oser sanctionner un travail documenté: J'ai pris la peine d'aller chercher mon Robert et de l'ouvrir, je ne crois pas que cela mérite une sanction. D'autre part, les variantes régionales n'empêchent pas l'unicité de la valeur académique, et il est régulièrement observé qu'il est typique de l'enfance de placer des "é" à la place des "è". – BBBreiz Nov 20 '19 at 16:34

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