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I have read in TLFi, Word Reference and in Wiktionary that "commerce" is pronounced /kɔ.mɛʁs/. However, I hear an /o/ instead of an /ɔ/ in the corresponding audios in both WR and Wiktionary web pages. Is it just me or is this /ɔ/ not pronounced accurately as in "porte"? Maybe the difference is related to stress?

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    Maybe a regional pronunciation ? If I imagine "commerce" with a closed [o], that sounds to my ears like a feature from the South of France. – Greg Oct 7 at 9:40
  • @Greg I expected TLFi, Word Reference and Wiktionary to point to the standard (Parisian AFAIK) French pronunciation. Don't you? – Alan Evangelista Oct 7 at 10:12
  • Does this answer your question? Do I have to learn /o/ or /ɔ/ separately? – jlliagre Oct 7 at 13:00
  • @jiliagre I'm not asking if I have to learn the 2 phonems, I want to know what native French speakers use in this specific case. If there are regional differences, I want to know them. – Alan Evangelista Oct 7 at 13:17
  • Native French speakers might use both pronunciations. There are regional and individual variations. I suspect that people who say \ʁoz\ for rose are more likely to say \kɔ.mɛʁs\ while people who say \ʁɔzə\ are more likely to say \ko.mɛʁsə\. – jlliagre Oct 7 at 13:36
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In French, the pronunciation between /o/ and /ɔ/ is quite close. In the case of "commerce", it is effectively a /o/; the o is pronounced like "eau" (water) and not as "porte".

However, depending on the region, the accents differ and many pronunciations are "distorted" or at least less accentuated.

I found another recording recorded by someone of French origin (and not English like on Wiktionary), maybe that will help you to distinguish:

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  • It's odd that, even in the link you mentioned in which I clearly hear /ko.mɛʁs/ in the audio , the IPA transcription says /kɔ.mɛʁs/. I thought that someone would have noted and fixed that inconsistency at some point. – Alan Evangelista Oct 7 at 10:10
  • Indeed, according to my answer, I will use /ko.mɛʁs/ instead. Maybe I am not pronouncing it correctly myself ... As I said, the distinction between open and closed o is quite close, even lost depending on the region and the words. See: fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Annexe:Prononciation/… if your read French. – Armand Oct 7 at 10:28
  • Thanks for the useful link! As a self taught languages learner, I find very frustrating when dictionaries use outdated (aka "traditional") IPA transcriptions. – Alan Evangelista Oct 7 at 10:37
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As a French language learner, you shouldn't focus on differences no native French really cares of.

What is important is mispronunciations that would either lead to a different word than the one expected (rare) or prevent the listener to easily or at all understand what you want to say.

Using /o/ or /ɔ/ in commerce isn't either of these cases so just use whatever vowel you like. Nobody will notice.

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The standard pronunciation is [kɔ mεʀs] as found in the TLFi. Nevertheless, there are variations and [o] is also found ; this is also true for a large number of other nouns, for instance "restaurant". For example, my personal pronunciation for these two is /o/ (as internalised, not a result of practicing). Either one is acceptable. However, in "restaure" there is just one possibility and that is /ɔ/. In "restorez", again the two are possible. Apparently, there exists a pnonétic principle for deducing where the change is possible and even likely, but I am not aware of it. It could be a question having to do with the phonetic vowel that follows, whether it is a nasal or not.

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  • Personally, I always heard that the "o" was always pronounced /ɔ/ if the vowel of the next syllabe was a silent "e". Remark that it is not the only case where the "o" os pronounced /ɔ/, but I don't know an example of such a "o" where it is pronounced /o/ – Abel Milor Oct 7 at 10:05
  • @AbelMilor An example is "rose"; standard: [ʀo:z], ie north, central; extreme southern part: /rɔz/. Here is an interesting reference in the way of showing a little of the unsuspected variety there is in the pronunciation of French: buzzfeed.com/fr/julesdarmanin/… – LPH Oct 7 at 17:24

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