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Still learning French A1 and got confused with one of the sound tracks, audio file, in my text book.

As per the text, the sentence is:

Ici, c’est Isabelle, ma conjointe, et nos trois enfants : Anne, William, et notre petit dernier, Victor,

which starts at about 35 seconds in the audio file. But for the part "et notre petit dernier" I just can't understand how to match the words with the sound.

Please share your knowledge on the reason about the pronunciation rule. Thanks.

P.S. The sound file is uploaded to Google Drive, if there is any concern.

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    Note that for French ears, it really sounds like a Québécois trying to refrain his accent to sound more neutral, which makes it a bit weird. Most french people would not use the two elisions together, except maybe in the north east of France. We would rather say "Not' petit dernier" or "Notre p'ti dernier" but rarely both together. It's rather typical of Canadian French
    – Kaddath
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 12:41
  • Even in the north east of France :-) This is just too much elision. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 13:54
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    Two other things typical of Canadian French I noticed: «frère» lowered to be almost like «~frare» and affrication before high front vowels: «Dupuis» → «~Dzupuis», «Arthur» → «~Artsur», «petit» → «~petsi», «Diane» → «~Dziane». I believe the affrication is pretty common in France but the lowering is much rarer.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 1:24
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    Ah it's the Québécois let's elision-all-the-things...accent. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 19:36
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    @Kaddath It does be a Québec text book. :D...
    – sleepy
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 22:04

2 Answers 2

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In everyday speech, notre reduces most of the time to /nɔt/ when the following word begins with a consonant.

Petit has a e-muet/schwa (/ə/) in its initial syllable which is notoriously unstable and may or may not be pronounced depending on speaker habits or their dialect, speech conditions, the surrounding sounds, etc. Petit /pəti/ can thus also be realised as /pti/ or even as /ti/. Normally this reduction is seriously inhibited if the preceding context is a word ending in a consonant, like "not'", but this isn't absolute, especially with very common words like petit, peut-être, pronouns like "je" or determiners like le or ce.

Put both of those together, and you have a pronunciation of "et notre petit dernier" as "et not' p'tit dernier" /e nɔt pti dɛrnje/. The /p/ is hard to make out, but feels present to me. In a Praat spectogram, there is noise appearing between the closure of the /t/ of notre and the release of the /t/ of "tit".

Limiting the jargon to the maximum, when you pronounce a sound like /t/, you block the airstream with your tongue somewhere between the teeth and the domed part of the palate, let the pressure build up a bit then release it with a burst. When two /t/ are adjacent, as in netteté (/nɛtte/), the pressure build up phase is held for roughly twice as long, but the closure and burst phases happen only once.

What the speaker seems to have done here is block his airstream when saying the /t/ of notre and let this closure remain in place until the /t/ of petit, at which point he released the air blocked behind his teeth, as if producing a long /tt/. But in the middle of this closure phase, he closed then opened his lips as if pronouncing /p/. Because the airstream was already blocked behind the lips, there was no build up of air and thus produced no burst, but still modified the soundwave a bit, which helps identify this as /nɔtpti/ even if it's not very audible as a distinct segment.

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He makes two elisions: not' and 'tit. Thus, not'it dernier is how it sounds.

These are both very common. It's a little unusual to have employed them in such an elementary listening exercise, though; I wonder if the speaker just slipped and did it out of habit.

In not', note (no pun intended) that there is no articulation of the r, to my ears. This applies to many -re words and in parallel to -le words like table (tab').

In 'tit, however, there is a very faintly articulated p. This is hence often written p'tit. You can hear the p more clearly a couple lines earlier when he says le p'tit Arture.

Another elision you might have noticed is à côté d'son grand-père.

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