French Pronunciations

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:14 pm

Hoke wrote: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'.


You've introduced the other variable--not the language itself, but what people think they hear.

I have a friend who pronounces 'Sauternes' in three distinct syllables, saw-tee-ENS. I finally asked one day after her curious pronunciation (she loves Sauternes, so speaks the word often), and she told me "Because that's how they say it in France!"
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Ryan M » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:22 pm

My go-to for French wine pronunciations is the Wine Dictionary at Epicurious - it's a great resource for that purpose. I love Sauternes as well, and have always pronounced it as the Wine Dictionary suggests: Soh-TEHRN.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Hoke » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:36 pm

Absolutely correct, Jenise. Good point.

I suppose you could classify language as 1) the generally accepted style and usage (the "rules"; which are always, by the way, lagging just behind actual style and usage); 2) the sender; and 3) the receiver.

Jon Carroll, a columnist for the SF Chron----and one heck of a good writer and social observer----frequently runs a hilarious column of mondegreens. You know, those instances where one misinterprets something being said, and comes away with an entirely different (and often totally meaningless) interpretation?

They are most often heard in pop songs. And all of us have had those mondegreen moments. :)

Don't get me wrong: I firmly believe in learning the current conventions of usage. I used to teach that after all. And it is necessary for effective communication. But there are those who seek to "freeze" a language without realizing they cannot do so---not for long, anyway---because language is very much a living thing, and thus constantly changing.

One can be aware of the conventions. And should be. But one must be aware of the constant change as well. Adhering to a fixed style, and assuming it is "correct", is simply falling back mindlessly on what you were taught in grade school and thinking that is the one fixed 'correct' way.

Brings to mind a funny story. We were vacationing in southern France a few years ago with another couple. We went to a restaurant. Our male friend had convinced himself he spoke perfectly fluent French for the few words and phrases he knew. He was born and bred in Noo Yawk, and it was obvious to everyone, if you get my drift. He insisted on ordering in French. Madame, the soul of elegance and hospitality, clearly had no idea whatsoever what he was saying---and he, knowing he was speaking impeccable French, was stymied that she could not understand him. He refused to use English. At an impasse, Madame had an inspiration: she would point to each main course and make the appropriate noises. For steak, she would moo. For chicken, she would cluck.

Things went well (and the rest of us were falling off chairs while laughing so hard we were in pain), until she came to a fish dish. She hesitated for a long while, then pursed her lips, popped her eyes out, and made a fish face, accompanied by little swimming motions.

By this time the entire restaurant was watching the show, and our dinner companion was enthusiastically responding in kind.

He ordered the moo.

And he never could understand why she couldn't understand his perfectly good French.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:04 pm

Hoke wrote:And he never could understand why she couldn't understand his perfectly good French.


I am part of group that was invited to the French Ambassador's residence in D.C. for a swell event. Our group's president delivered some remarks in French, thanking the Ambassador, noting the occasion, yada yada yada. Then he prefaced a translation by saying, "For those of you who don't speak French, and perhaps more particularly for those of you who do, ...." He got chuckles from all.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:14 pm

Ryan Maderak wrote: I love Sauternes as well, and have always pronounced it as the Wine Dictionary suggests: Soh-TEHRN.


As do I. But oddly that's not what my friend hears when we do. She's Chinese-American, I've often wondered if there's something in her personal linguistics that causes the error, or if it's simply the proverbial "tin ear".
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Tim York » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:25 pm

Jenise wrote:
Ryan Maderak wrote: I love Sauternes as well, and have always pronounced it as the Wine Dictionary suggests: Soh-TEHRN.


As do I. But oddly that's not what my friend hears when we do. She's Chinese-American, I've often wondered if there's something in her personal linguistics that causes the error, or if it's simply the proverbial "tin ear".


I think that "ear" has a lot to do with it. I am constantly amazed how well most top level classical musicians speak mainstream European languages in addition to their mother tongue. Listen to Cecilia Bartoli speaking near perfect English and French, Pierre Boulez in English and German, Herbert von Karajan in English, French and Italian, Daniel Barenboim in English, French, Spanish and German and so on.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Hoke » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:36 pm

Do you classify opera singers as top class musicians, Tim?

I ask because, after hearing Luca Provolone (Luciana Pavarotti) butcher English mercilessly for so many years (but delightfully so) with his dialect; and being able to clearly hear the 'foreignness' of his singing in anything but Italian. I wonder... :D

Some languages are easier than others to 'master' fluency in speech, I think.

Chinese (whichever version you wish to name) is incredibly difficult; Japanese is comparatively easy.

Spanish is easy---compared to French. (Most languages are easy, compared to French. :) )
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:59 pm

Jenise wrote:
Ryan Maderak wrote: I love Sauternes as well, and have always pronounced it as the Wine Dictionary suggests: Soh-TEHRN.


As do I. But oddly that's not what my friend hears when we do. She's Chinese-American, I've often wondered if there's something in her personal linguistics that causes the error, or if it's simply the proverbial "tin ear".


Ah, here you touch on one of my favorite personal theories: The Law of Orthogonal Accents. I formulated this rule after working in a lab with researchers from China, Korea, Japan, India and Italy. We were all communicating in English, and I -- the only native Anglophone -- could understand everyone, but the Italian was incomprehensible to the East Asians and they to her. My take was that the cadences and stresses were so different between their competing renditions of English as to function like cross-polarized filters placed at 90°, appearing opaque to the observer. This rule was later reinforced when I was visiting some relations in Glasgow and boarded a bus driven by a Pakistani immigrant. Though I can make out even a thick Glaswegian accent, I was stymied by the Urdu-Glaswegian spoken by the driver. For the 10 minutes that we conversed, I doubt that I could make out more than one of every ten words he spoke, making for an... interesting... conversation.

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Tim York » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:03 pm

Hoke wrote:Do you classify opera singers as top class musicians, Tim?

I ask because, after hearing Luca Provolone (Luciana Pavarotti) butcher English mercilessly for so many years (but delightfully so) with his dialect; and being able to clearly hear the 'foreignness' of his singing in anything but Italian. I wonder... :D



Interesting question, Hoke. In Pavarotti's case, I would say no; top earning but not top class; he could be incredibly exciting but in a limited repertoire. Domingo, to stay with tenors, is a much more complete musician and, perhaps coincidentally, the better linguist though German speakers complain of his pronunciation in Wagner roles.

I have a suppressed rant inside me waiting to burst out on some classical music site about the poor diction and lack of comprehensibility of most classical singers EVEN IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. If I can hear the words, I am very forgiving about a little foreignness.

Curiously I am less tolerant about foreignness in French opera and song than in English. That is because of the special scansion and rhythm which few non-French mother tongue singers can deliver; Alfredo Kraus, a Spaniard, got the scansion even though there were some odd vowels.

Hoke wrote:Chinese (whichever version you wish to name) is incredibly difficult; Japanese is comparatively easy.



I can't speak for either but I've always heard that Japanese is fiendishly difficult. My son has just settled in Finland with his half Finnish family. My 3 year old grand-daughter is already mocking his lack of Finnish, which is reputedly the most difficult European language alongside Hungarian and Basque. He says that he cannot develop his Finnish because everyone replies in English.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby AlexR » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:07 pm

Hoke,

I couldn't read if your tone was meant to be ironic or not...

Do you doubt that the words are pronounced "Coss" or "Mo-ett" in French?

I've worked in both winegrowing regions and I assure you that those are the correct pronunciations.
This is from Wikipedia: "Various mispronunciations of Moët are known, including "mo-way," "mow-ee" and "mow-ett". The correct pronunciation is "mo-wett".

As for Jasnières (where I have visited once, like you), I confirm that it is pronounced "Jah-nyere".

Sometimes, local pronunciation is different from generally accepted pronunciation. I was in Barsac on Saturday. There, they pronounce Château Coutet "cou-tett", but even people in Bordeaux don't say it that way. I would avoid it, as I would some of the other mispronunciations you seem to have overheard.

Going through a list of the great growths of the Médoc, French pronunciation is (sorry if my way of expressing it is too personal):

Dur-for Vee-Vance
Mon-rose
Pal-mare
Mar-kee dal-em
Tal-bo
La-feet and Mou-ton Rot-sheel

As for Lynch Bages, as opposed to the Cos or Moët, the jury is actually hung: you hear *both* "Leensch Bahges" and "Lansch Bahges". I neverthless prefer the latter, which also seems more usual.

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:18 pm

Tim York wrote:Interesting question, Hoke. In Pavarotti's case, I would say no; top earning but not top class; he could be incredibly exciting but in a limited repertoire. Domingo, to stay with tenors, is a much more complete musician and, perhaps coincidentally, the better linguist though German speakers complain of his pronunciation in Wagner roles.


Yes, I think that you've got a valid point, Tim. My mother, an amateur (in the English sense) opera singer, was able to sing well in 4 languages though she spoke only English. She has a great ear for the sound of languages, which fortunately she passed on to me. It can be a curse, however, as I have got into some trouble with my carefully pronounced but painfully limited French in Paris: on a number of occasions I've been mistaken for a true Francophone after delivering a well-pronounced stock phrase :oops: and had to hastily retreat from a barrage of rapid-fire Parisian.

I have a suppressed rant inside me waiting to burst out on some classical music site about the poor diction and lack of comprehensibility of most classical singers EVEN IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. If I can hear the words, I am very forgiving about a little foreignness.


My mother would concur. She is very critical of the diction of many famous singers, as well as their pathetic acting skills in opera.

I can't speak for either but I've always heard that Japanese is fiendishly difficult. My son has just settled in Finland with his half Finnish family. My 3 year old grand-daughter is already mocking his lack of Finnish, which is reputedly the most difficult European language alongside Hungarian and Basque. He says that he cannot develop his Finnish because everyone replies in English.


The problem might be whether one wants to be merely proficient or truly fluent in Japanese. My experience is that, as an obvious gaijin, I'm given great latitude in behavior and communication in Japan, and any attempt I make to conform to Japanese custom (accepting meishi with both hands, for instance, and pouring the drink into my dining companions' cups) or to speak Japanese is greatly appreciated. My Japanese friends, though, have informed me of some of the intricacies of addressing someone in Japanese and I still fail to get much of it and likely never will.

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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Tim York » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:29 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:[ We were all communicating in English, and I -- the only native Anglophone -- could understand everyone, but the Italian was incomprehensible to the East Asians and they to her.


This differs from what my French speaking friends tell me about Euro meetings in English. They say that everything goes fine until an English mother tongue speaker intervenes; then a lot of people get lost. That could be because there is a lot of commonality between European languages which ceases to exist when Asians get involved.

A few months ago, I had a novel experience, for me, at the Turkish owned corner shop next to my sister's house in North London. I could understand their English but they couldn't understand mine.

As to Glasgow, I can't understand half of what they say even without an Urdu overlay.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:10 pm

Mark Lipton wrote: My take was that the cadences and stresses were so different between their competing renditions of English as to function like cross-polarized filters placed at 90°, appearing opaque to the observer.


Often happens to Anglophones listening to other Anglophones. Where I easily understand most anyone speaking English with almost any accent, my husband (to name one) does not, he cannot process even English accents. I lie and tell him this is because he grew up in Texas.
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Re: French Pronunciations

Postby Hoke » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:11 pm

I lie and tell him this is because he grew up in Texas.


Jenise, why would this be a lie??? :mrgreen:

Alex, no irony. And I'm good with Coo-tay. Actually, I almost always say 'Coutet a Barsac". Even when most people know what "Coutet" is. Just an affectation of mine. Your other phonetics are perfectly understandble to me. Being an ugly American, I do tend to use Lynch instead of Lanch. Unless I'm being really crude and just saying 'Lunch Bags'. :D

Mark: You understand Glaswegian? Wow. Now I'm impressed.

Tim: Finno-Ugric is definitely tough. I've heard that only Basque is as impenetrable in Europe.

Mark: When I was referring to Japanese being "easy", that was only in comparison to Chinese. The actual rules and pronunciations and syntax of Japanese are indeed easy. The cultural nuances used by the Japanese are anything but easy to us gaijin.

In years gone by (way, way by) I used to be able to speak German fluently. Because I lived there and learned it there. Despite taking many credits in Spanish in college, however, and enjoying it, I never once thought I was fluent in Spanish. It was a learned thing, not a lived thing. I discovered that when I ended up in a hospital room for a couple of days, with a Croat just off the boat, a newly arrived Puerto Rican, and a comatose heart patient sharing the room.

Thought I'd talk "Spanish" to the one guy. When you are taught in a college class, out of a textbook using Castilian, but by a young Polish girl from Milwaukee who spent all of one semester abroad, and you attempt to converse with a Puerto Rican... Well, let's just say that there wasn't a lot of communication going on there.

One night, however, in the Arena in Verona, during the summer Opera season, I spent a delightful evening before the performance with an instant group that consisted of Dutch, French, Northern Italians, Germans, Austrians, and some English speakers. It was the most wonderful mishmash of languages, a veritablee babel, but somehow, even through triple translations at times, we were enjoying the conversations.
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