French Pronunciations

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French Pronunciations

Postby Chaz A » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:22 pm

NUCULAR
There are many native English speakers (myself included) that pronounce English words incorrectly.
Similarly, in passing discussions with native French speakers, I can expect them to pronounce French words, on occasion, incorrectly.

Regarding Chateau Cos d'Estournel, I have heard various permutations of pronunciation- some with the -s of Cos silent, others pronounced, as well as the -s of Estournel silent, as well as pronounced. These variations have been uttered from both native French speakers as well as Anglophones, people in the wine business as well as those who are not.

Both Clive Coates and Robert Parker, in their lengthy tomes on the wines of Bordeaux, concur that the -s in both words is pronounced, and neither is silent. Neither Coates nor Parker are native French speakers, but I presume they are frequent visitors to the chateau over their long careers, for various barrel tastings and such, and in their conversations with the owners and staff at the chateau, they have heard the proper pronunciation often enough.

When it comes to old French vernacular and dialect, I have observed many of the typical rules of French pronunciation do not apply. Quite often this occurs in the southwest of France as well as in Provence.

Another frequent transgression that I have observed is Moët et Chandon. Quite often you hear this as MO-AY, where the proper pronunciation has been described as MO-ET.
The presence of the umlaut is certainly unusual for the French language. Moët the family name apparently is rooted in a Dutch ancestor, and in that case, the -t would not be silent.

By no means am I the final arbiter on pronunciation, these are just my observations, and I continue to be amused at the variations that exist. I welcome other perspectives on this topic.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:39 pm

Great topic, Chaz. You've touched a nerve with me--I don't speak French, I just, because of wine and food, know many French words and names which I live in great fear of saying incorrectly. I've even gone so far as to consider taking French lessons to, if nothing less, increase my confidence level, but you just pointed out two excellent examples of why that sometimes seems futile. There are so many exceptions!

Btw, "Cos" I had understood, Moet I had not known until I read your words just now.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Cynthia Wenslow » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:11 pm

Other languages are not my strength. I have many "reading words" that were I forced to have to pronounce them aloud, I would no doubt fumble badly. Thankfully, I have found that most speakers of other languages have huge reserves of forgiveness (and amusement!), and give me credit for just trying! :oops:

Welcome to WLDG, Chaz.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby AlexR » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:54 pm

Yes, you pronounce the 's' in Cos.

The first "t" is silent in Montrachet.

And the British pronounce Cockburn port, 'Coburn'.

Personally, I have trouble with German words with more than 20 characters, so I feel your pain.

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:22 pm

Alex, so Montrachet would be pronounced MON ra SHET?
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:46 pm

Jenise wrote:Alex, so Montrachet would be pronounced MON ra SHET?


The second T is also silent. Alex probably assumed people did that because it's so common in French.

So, Monrashay.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:05 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
Jenise wrote:Alex, so Montrachet would be pronounced MON ra SHET?


The second T is also silent. Alex probably assumed people did that because it's so common in French.

So, Monrashay.


Crap. There's no hope for me. :cry:

Well, at least I never said Cos De Esternell, as I heard someone pronounce one of Chaz's examples the other day.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:21 am

Chaz A wrote:The presence of the umlaut is certainly unusual for the French language. Moët the family name apparently is rooted in a Dutch ancestor, and in that case, the -t would not be silent.


An umlaut in French would indeed be most unusual, but the diacritical mark you see in Moët is instead a tréma (diaeresis), signifying to the reader that the marked letter is to be pronounced without reference to the preceding letter. What this means in practical terms is that an "oe" would normally be viewed as a diphthong in French and pronounced as a shortened "oo" sound -- not unlike ö in German. The presence of the tréma instructs the reader to pronounce the "oë" as two syllables ("oh-eh"). You see the same thing in the name Noël, which both Anglophiles and Francophiles pronounce as two syllables (No-el).

You are right about the nonstandard pronunciations of regional French, too. I provided my friend SFJoe (known to some here) with great hilarity when I applied standard rules of French pronunciation to the name Huet. He kindly informed me that it comes from some regional dialect in the Loire and is pronounced "Hew-ut" or something close to that. Go figger.

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby AlexR » Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:24 am

Mark,

An umlaut and a tréma and a diaeresis are all the same thing. Not speaking German, I have no idea of its function in that language. All I'm saying is that the name for the diacritic is the same in all three languages.

You are spot on with regard to the function of the "tréma" in French. Another good example is the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë (pronounced "de-la-noay").

As for the origin of the Moët family, I believe they have their roots in France. While a number of Champagne houses were founded by Germans, I don't think this to be the case at Moët et Chandon.

Huet? I'd pronounce it "Hu-ett".
English speakers have a tough time making the distinction between the "u" and "ou" sounds, whereas it is huge to French words.
Words like "la rue" (the street) and "la roue" have a totally different sound in French, as do "au-dessus" (above) and "au-dessous" (below).

The most frequent pronunciation of Pétrus (Pet-roos) in English grates of French ears (Pay-trus - with a "short u") as does "Grand Croo".

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Tim York » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:41 am

Alex,

For English mother tongue people, I think that the combination of a French "r" and French "u" defeats 90% of even the most experienced in French, except perhaps for Scots. The biggest tongue twister for me is the first word in "Ducru-Beaucaillou".

And "chapeau" to any English speaker who is 100% infallible with genders.

And once word pronunciation and genders are mastered, intonation and scansion of the phrase betray the foreigner but I don't think that this is important if the message can be formulated and understood.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jacques Levy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:29 am

I can live with Petroos, Grand Crew, Doocroo, Chicken Cordon Bloo, but the most grating pronunciation for me is Gruaud Larose; English speakers like to say "Greward", I don't know where they found the second "r".
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby AlexR » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:34 pm

I have a friend from Quebec named Robert. He cringes when English speakers address him as "Raw Bear"!

I'm not being supercilious here. Just some input as how others see us English speakers.

Of course, it works the other way around!
Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister was recently in Israel. In speaking about Syria or Iraq (I forget which) he said that in case of aggression, "We will hit them".
However, with his accent, he was understood to say "We will *eat* them", which left the journalists perplexed at such a vigorous - and unusual - form of defensive reaction!

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby John Tomasso » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:45 pm

Jacques Levy wrote:I can live with Petroos, Grand Crew, Doocroo, Chicken Cordon Bloo, but the most grating pronunciation for me is Gruaud Larose; English speakers like to say "Greward", I don't know where they found the second "r".



Rather than just cursing the darkness, please light a candle and illustrate the correct pronunciation of the above.
This site used to have a very helpful pronunciation section, with native speakers recordings of the troublesome terms.
Does anyone know if it is still active?
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:50 pm

John Tomasso wrote:
Jacques Levy wrote:the most grating pronunciation for me is Gruaud Larose; English speakers like to say "Greward", I don't know where they found the second "r".



Rather than just cursing the darkness, please light a candle and illustrate the correct pronunciation of the above.


Gru-oh.

"Gru" = gru
"aud" = oh.

That one is standard French phonetics.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:41 pm

AlexR wrote:
An umlaut and a tréma and a diaeresis are all the same thing. Not speaking German, I have no idea of its function in that language. All I'm saying is that the name for the diacritic is the same in all three languages.


Alex,
They are same thing only in an orthographic sense. The umlaut in German indicates a following letter of e, so ö stands for oe and ä for ae, etc. (note that ï and ë are never seen, but rather written as ie and ee). It has the same function as the circumflex in French. On a completely geeky note, the umlaut arose from the now-deprecated system of making plurals and participles in Old Germanic, wherein the vowel in the root word changed with plural or tense. This is why, in English, we have long/length, tell/told, fill/full, steal/stole, will/would. Similarly, in German, you have füllen (to fill)/voll (full). Alles klar?

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Wink Lorch » Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:17 pm

AlexR wrote:Of course, it works the other way around!
Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister was recently in Israel. In speaking about Syria or Iraq (I forget which) he said that in case of aggression, "We will hit them".
However, with his accent, he was understood to say "We will *eat* them", which left the journalists perplexed at such a vigorous - and unusual - form of defensive reaction!


And Madame de Gaulle - way back when - was being interviewed on British TV after the resignation of her husband as Président of the République de France ... She was asked what she was looking forward to on her husband's retirement ... her answer: "A penis" ... there was a brief, poignant pause until the interviewer caught up and said quickly: "Ah, happiness!"

As for me, it is the 'ou' and 'u' that give me the most difficulty and potentially gets me into trouble in France (French speakers will understand).

But, I can pronounce Reuilly and Rully correctly - how do you do those phonetically?
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Covert » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:14 pm

Jenise wrote:I've even gone so far as to consider taking French lessons to, if nothing less, increase my confidence level, but you just pointed out two excellent examples of why that sometimes seems futile. There are so many exceptions! Btw, "Cos" I had understood, Moet I had not known until I read your words just now.


Is it Cos, as in coast, or like hoss? I have heard it six ways to Sunday. And you are right about it being a waste of time to take French lessons for the purpose of not making a fool of yourself when ordering wine at Daniel. I sat down with a French teacher prior to dining at a top spot, and was corrected by the sommelier for every bottle I mentioned. It really ticked me off because I had pronounced the wines correctly before being corrected by the teacher.

Who in the world would best know how to pronounce the majority of French wines, maybe Hugh Johnson? Parker would probably know Bordeaux pretty well.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Hoke » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:32 pm

To hell with Parker and Coates.

I had lunch with Bruno Prats (former owner of Cos d'Estournel and a mighty fine gentleman), and asked him that very question on pronunciation: Do you pronounce it with or without an "s"?

He replied, with a smile, that it would depend on where you are standing in France when you pronounce it. And either was appropriate, as far as he was concerned, for he assumed that if you were pronouncing it you were probably drinking it, and if you were drinking it you could pronounce it any way you wished. So the Man himself told me, and that's good enough for me.

And if I'm not mistaken, when you pronounce Moet, it is indeed 'Moh-ett. But when you pronounce Moet et Chandon, because of the '-et et' the pronounciation becomes 'Mo-ay Chandon. If a non-french speaker were to hear 'Mo-ay Chandon', I can certainly understand how he or she could then subsequently pronounce 'Mo-ay'.

And besides, complain as you will, people will say what they will say, and words and sounds will be formed as they will be, because you---and the grammarians---don't make language. Grammarians only codify changes. And languages change as they will; the grammarians cannot (and true grammarians do not) attempt to freeze them in place. That is foolishness.

Just because you learned things a certain way doesn't mean it is the one and only 'correct' way. The only person in this discussion who seems to understand this is Mark Lipton, because he has a grasp of how language, and internal rules and guides, works.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:35 am

Wink Lorch wrote:
And Madame de Gaulle - way back when - was being interviewed on British TV after the resignation of her husband as Président of the République de France ... She was asked what she was looking forward to on her husband's retirement ... her answer: "A penis" ... there was a brief, poignant pause until the interviewer caught up and said quickly: "Ah, happiness!"




OK, that one had me falling out of my chair. :mrgreen:

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby AlexR » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:23 am

Bruno Prats was just being polite (and witty). I confirm that you do indeed pronounce the "s" in Cos d'Estournel or Cos Labory. And that it thus rhymes with "hoss".

As for the "t" in Moët, it's the other way around. Even if there *weren't" a diaeresis, you would still pronounce the "t" in Moët et Chandon because ot the liason between the consonant "t" at the end of the word and the vowel of the following word ("et"). So, it would be impossible for a native speaker to pronounce that "Mo-ay" in that context.

The longest château name in Bordeaux (and ex-classified growth) is "Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac".

It is said that non-French speakers struggle with the Burgundy appellation "Flagey Echézeaux".
You'll notice, by the way, that I did not put an accent on the capital "E".
According to the rules of French typography, you should. However, very few people do so...
In fact, when there is *not* an accent on a capital letter, it can be very confusing. In doing a Web search, I found several different spellings of Flagey Echézeaux and couldn't be sure of the right one.

It matters because, for instance, it is Saint Ay (as in "hay") - milion, and not Saint Emm-ilion in French, but you might not know this because the capital E is most often unaccented...

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Tim York » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:42 am

Wink Lorch wrote:
And Madame de Gaulle - way back when - was being interviewed on British TV after the resignation of her husband as Président of the République de France ... She was asked what she was looking forward to on her husband's retirement ... her answer: "A penis" ... there was a brief, poignant pause until the interviewer caught up and said quickly: "Ah, happiness!"



Wink, I will treasure this one. A real classic which i have never heard before!
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Hoke » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:00 pm

Bruno Prats was just being polite (and witty). I confirm that you do indeed pronounce the "s" in Cos d'Estournel or Cos Labory. And that it thus rhymes with "hoss".

As for the "t" in Moët, it's the other way around. Even if there *weren't" a diaeresis, you would still pronounce the "t" in Moët et Chandon because ot the liason between the consonant "t" at the end of the word and the vowel of the following word ("et"). So, it would be impossible for a native speaker to pronounce that "Mo-ay" in that context.


Of course he was being polite and witty, Alex. But he gave me permission, so neener-neener-neener. :D

As for Mo-ay/Mo-et: I find it interesting that when in Epernay, and while staying at their chateau in Chouilly, and while touring the caves and facility, I heard several employees of the firm refer to it as "mo-ay". Perhaps they were being polite as well; or perhaps they were being English (and thus unable to fathom French). :?

On to another situation, wherein I invite your input: I was questioning the pronunciation of the lovely wine and AOC, Jasnieres. I had heard it both as JAZZ-nee-ehr and JAHN-yehr. When I asked several different French speakers what was more recognized, I got mixed responses. The responses varied, primarily, according to whether I was speaking to a Northern French (actually, Parisian) or Southern French (Midi). What do you say?
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Ryan M » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:08 pm

Tim York wrote:
Wink Lorch wrote:
And Madame de Gaulle - way back when - was being interviewed on British TV after the resignation of her husband as Président of the République de France ... She was asked what she was looking forward to on her husband's retirement ... her answer: "A penis" ... there was a brief, poignant pause until the interviewer caught up and said quickly: "Ah, happiness!"



Wink, I will treasure this one. A real classic which i have never heard before!


Actually, this one turned up in the Beverly Hillbillies movie. And for the record, I've only ever seen the movie once, and that was in grade-school. I just have an extraordinary capacity for movie quotes and trivia.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:10 pm

Ryan Maderak wrote:Actually, this one turned up in the Beverly Hillbillies movie. And for the record, I've only ever seen the movie once, and that was in grade-school. I just have an extraordinary capacity for movie quotes and trivia.


And you're a guy. :) You may be the only person who saw this movie.
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