The First English Bookshop Established on The Continent

Hi, you.

It’s been a while. And if you’ve missed me in my absence, I’m here to offer an explanation for it.

I’m not depressed, so that’s good. In fact, I’m quite happy these days. ūüôā

To be honest, blogging has fallen down the list of my greatest passions. I still love doing it, but it’s been a while since I’ve lent excitement and eagerness to the next post I’d be writing up. Nothing has happened, just that I’ve got other projects going on which have all been preoccupying my time. It’s been about a month since my last entry, and in that timeframe I’ve managed to start posts and scrap posts. Today I’m finally deciding to give you an update, on the off chance you’ve assumed I’ve fallen into an abyss. (I haven’t.)

I’ll still be blogging, of course. Just not as often as I used to or as I said I’d try to. A few entries per month seems absolutely feasible. That said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if I accidentally glaze over a month, either. I can tell you I will have a new, well-thought-out, organized, and planned blog entry popping up fresh for you either tomorrow or on Saturday. In the meantime, please enjoy these¬†photos of an awesome bookmark I found in a recent purchase.

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How neat is that? Now I’ve got another reason to visit France. ūüôā

Happy trekking. See you this weekend.

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On: Phonétique française РA closer look at French Phonetics

In my French studies, I’ve come across several different accents above varying letters. Par exemple:¬†√† (e.g.¬†l√† –¬†‘there’),¬†√ī (e.g.¬†t√īt – ‘soon’),¬†√© (e.g.¬†l√©g√®re¬†– ‘light’), and so on. Though I’ve been able to pick up on how to pronounce each accented letter¬†due to repetitive use, I’ve still been curious as to the meaning behind¬†each accent. It varies per language, but what (hopefully) follows is a clarification regarding each accent and its respective rules in the French language. grave The grave accent, seen above the letter a¬†in the French word¬†l√†, generally marks the openness of a vowel. The openness refers to the height at which your jaw is positioned during pronunciation. (‘Open’ means your jaw is literally more open; ‘close’ means the opposite.) In French, it is used on three letters:¬†a,¬†e, and¬†u.

Its only purpose for appearing above letters a and u is to differentiate between homonyms that are otherwise spelled the same way; the pronunciation is not affected. In other words: a is the third-person singular present tense conjugation of the verb avoir (to have Рelle a = she has). À on the other hand means to/belonging to/towards. Both words are pronounced the same; the grave accent is used to distinguish them.

When placed above the letter e, it marks a change in pronunciation. The letter è in French is pronounced open, as I mentioned earlier; it shares the same pronunciation as the ai in the English word air.

circumflex

The circumflex accent plays an interesting role¬†in the French language. When placed over the letter¬†e¬†(ergo,¬†√™), it is pronounced open, much like¬†√®.¬†I like to say¬†that¬†√™ is pronounced the same¬†as in the English word¬†get¬†when followed by the letter¬†t; i.e.¬†f√™te¬†(party),¬†t√™te¬†(head).¬†When used as¬†√ī, it is pronounced close, as it is in¬†l’eau¬†(the water), and¬†plut√īt¬†(rather).

Not unlike the grave accent, the circumflex is also used to distinguish homophones. For instance; cote, meaning¬†mark or¬†level, and¬†c√īte, meaning¬†rib or¬†coast.¬†Now comes the interesting part.

The circumflex accent is also used to denote an English-to-French translation in which the letter s, used in the corresponding English word, has been omitted and thus is no longer pronounced in the French equivalent. Confused? Here are some examples:

  • anc√™tre, meaning ‘ancestor’
  • h√īpital,¬†meaning ‘hospital’
  • p√Ęte, meaning ‘paste’
  • ao√Ľt,¬†meaning ‘August’¬†

You’ll notice the¬†s was lost in translation. See what I did there?

Fait¬†int√©ressant: In handwritten French, such as when taking notes, an¬†mŐā may be used as an informal abbreviation to mean¬†m√™me (same).

acute

The acute accent in most Romance languages implies a stressed vowel; i.e. a vowel that emphasis is placed on in pronunciation. However, stress is not implied by the acute accent in French. It is only used on é, and should be pronounced like the letter e is in the English word seen. E in French without the acute accent is normally stressless, and by itself, should be pronounced as the u in the English word put. 

cedilla

The cedilla is easily recognizable as the little tail that hangs off the letter c in the commonly used French word ça, meaning it. It is used to mark the soft s sound with which to pronounce the letter c as opposed to the hard k sound, as in canard (duck).

oe

The¬†Ňstis not so much an accent as it is a ligature (a combination) of the letters¬†o and¬†e¬†into a single glyph. It is pronounced the same as in the French consecutive letter pairing¬†eu which sounds like the¬†oo in the English words¬†book¬†and¬†took. When¬†oe occurs without the ligature, it is pronounced just as¬†oi is in¬†moi¬†(me) and¬†toi (you).

Fait¬†int√©ressant: In French,¬†Ňstis called¬†e dans¬†l’o, which literally means¬†e in the o. Due to French pronunciation, it sounds similar to the phrase¬†(des)¬†Ňďufs dans l’eau,¬†meaning¬†eggs in the water.¬†This is a mnemotechnic* pun used when first learning the ligature in primary school.

*Mnemotechny¬†is the study or practice of improving one’s memory.

umlaut

In French, the¬†umlaut is placed over a vowel when it is to be pronounced separately from the preceding letter. On several occasions, you’ll notice that a pairing of vowels in French is pronounced as a single sound. Take¬†mais for example; it means¬†but, and it is monosyllabic. But if you add an umlaut above the¬†i, making it into¬†ma√Įs, its meaning changes to¬†corn, and you must pronounce the vowels separately.

The umlaut is also placed over the letters¬†e¬†and u¬†to denote a pronunciation change when the¬†otherwise silent e follows¬†gu. Compare the French words¬†figue, meaning¬†fig (which shares its English counterpart’s pronunciation), and¬†cigu√ę,¬†meaning¬†hemlock. The latter is disyllabic due to the added umlaut, and is pronounced¬†sig-y, as opposed to¬†sig.¬†


Hopefully this in-depth look at the¬†phonetics of the¬†French language is helpful to you. Maybe you never cared about the accents or their respective uses; that’s fine. Maybe you feel like your time was wasted in reading this. That’s fine, too. I’m not hurt by that…

cuteness-overload-rage-face[1]

But if you’re like me, and you need to learn¬†every single tidbit of information about the language you’re learning and its history, then maybe you found this informative. I hope that’s the case. ūüôā


P.S. You may have read in my very first post that I’d been planning to attach a French translation to each entry here on Wordsmith. You may have also noticed that that hasn’t been the case for most of my posts since then. I’ve decided that’s no longer something I’m going to do. Some posts end up being thousands of words long, and the translation takes me an awfully long time, as I’m still in the early stages of developing my French tongue. I may write bilingually in the future once I become more proficient. But for now, since I’m only a novice, and for the sake of saving time and space, 95% of my posts will be in English only. A few here and there may include a French translation, if I’m feeling ambitious. I hope you understand.

Also, a huge thank-you to the 50+ followers I’ve amassed so far. I really appreciate you coming along on¬†this journey of creative writing, language, and occasional ranting and raving with me. It means a lot, and you’re all the reason I do what I do.

Write on.

Fluent French speakers: I need your help

French is a beautiful and romantic language, and I am enjoying every minute I spend studying and practicing it. As with any new language, however, I’m having some difficulties. I guess I shouldn’t complain, since my native tongue is English, and English is one of the most difficult language to learn. It’s got all kinds of inconsistent rules, the pronunciation of the vowels varies depending on the word, some letters are contextually pronounced as others, etc.

Back to my point. I’m struggling to understand certain rules in French, insofar as when to use different forms of the same word. I’m using a fantastic app called Duolingo¬†which allows anyone to learn a new language, free of charge. It’s very good about explaining when to use what. But sometimes, it leaves me hanging.

Par exemple:

The words¬†eux and¬†les both mean ‘them.’¬†But are they interchangeable? If not, when do I use which word?¬†I’ve tried scouring Google for answers, but the results are explained confusingly and are unhelpful. I’ve also occasionally seen¬†leur,¬†which means¬†‘their,’ used to mean ‘them.’¬†Did I make that up? Or is it really a thing?¬†

The phrase¬†ce sont eux qui dirigent translates into ‘they are the ones driving.’ (Literally:¬†it is them who drive.) Could I use¬†les in place of¬†eux here? Why or why not? My theory is that¬†les refers to inanimate objects, whereas¬†eux¬†is in regards to people or animals. Is this at all true?

Un autre exemple:

Nous is the formal word for ‘we’/’us.’ I’m familiar with the conjugation for this form. However,¬†on is the informal version. Sometimes, I’m caught off-guard by its usage. It seems to me that the conjugation of¬†on is¬†the same as the conjugation of the forms¬†il/elle. Is this correct?¬†(i.e.¬†nous allons = ‘we go’; on va/il va¬†= ‘we go,’ ‘he goes.’)

These two examples are what stump me the most in French. There are others, and as I come across them again in my studies, I will post addendums to request more help. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!