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Are there any consistent rules for when a consonant is pronounced at the end of a word in French?

I have seen the mnemonic CAREFUL, with the general rule that all word terminal consonants are silent except -c, -r, -f,, -l; and the rule STUPID saying -s, -t, -p, -d are always silent, but these seem to have many exceptions:

Pronounced Silent
sac /sac/ tabac /ta.ba/
hier /jɛʁ/ dernier /dɛʁ.nje/
chef /ʃɛf/ clef /kle/
avril /a.vʁil/ gentil /ʒɑ̃.ti/
Silent Pronounced
gris /gʁi/ vis /vis/
nuit /nɥi/ huit /ɥit/
drap /dʁa/ cap /ka/
pied /pje/ sud /sud/
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The following paper posits a different set of rules which (when tested on their corpus) proved to be much more accurate than the "careful" principle:

Our proposal, then, is the following. In conjunction with a pedagogical norm which requires students at elementary levels of the study of French to produce only obligatory liaisons, we suggest that students learn that in nonliaison environments, final consonant letters are not pronounced, with the following exceptions:

  1. -r is pronounced [r] when it is not in an -er infinitive or in one of the following sequences: -ier (-yer), -ger, -cher;

  2. -l is pronounced [j] in sequences of a vowel followed by -il and as [l] in other cases;

  3. -f is pronounced [f]; and

  4. -c is pronounced [k] except after n, where it is silent.

In addition, students would have to learn on an individual basis the 53 exceptional items, which we list below:

  • fier, hier, cher, monsieur, oreiller;
  • outil, fusil, gentil, sourcil;
  • clef, nerf, cerf;
  • donc, tabac, estomac, porc, caoutchouc;
  • sud;
  • sandwich;
  • bifteck;
  • film, islam, maximum, minimum, aluminium;
  • cap;
  • coq, cinq;
  • sens, fils, autobus, omnibus, os, ours, mars, vis, express, maïs, terminus;
  • exact, net, direct, indirect, ouest, est, deficit, intact, sept, cet, huit;
  • six, dix;
  • gaz.

The general principle and its four statements of exceptions provide for a predictive accuracy of 97.3% (1874 of 1927 cases), which is considerably more efficient than the traditional "careful" principle (60.71%, 1171 of 1927 cases). And surely, a list of 53 exceptional items which must be memorized is incidental when compared to the task of learning 1927 final consonant letter occurrences on a word-by-word basis, if one opts for not teaching any general principle for final consonant letter pronunciation in French.


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