French Language

Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.

French Vocab Games app for iPhone/iPad French-English dictionary French grammar French vocab/phrases

For the latest updates, follow @FrenchUpdates on Twitter!

Has French phonology changed a lot since 18th century?

Hello everyone, this is my first question.

Turkish language, my mother-tongue, borrowed so many words from French since 18th century. I'm studying on these loanwords and I wonder if pronunciations of French words changed a lot since Turkish language started to borrow these words. If they changed a lot, some French words in Turkish will be old version of these. I want to find out them (if any).

Thanks in advance.

Views: 1056

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Yes, and some words have changed.

Thanks for your reply.

I'm interested in phonological changes only. How can I find out how much and in which way French changed since 18th century? Are there any free online (scientifical) sources that I can cite in my papers? (I live in a small city in Turkey, so I can't access so many books)

In general it's probably true to say that it hasn't changed a "lot" in the last couple of centuries, depending on what your measure of "a lot" would be. Here are some changes that have occurred:

- by and large, length distinctions have pretty much disappeared for most speakers (though in most cases exactly where they occurred in the first place and how consistent they were is open to debate), so e.g. at one time the letter "y" is described as representing a long "i" sound, the letter "o" is described as being longer before certain letters, final consonants are described as being lengthened before mute 'e', differences in the length of different "e" sounds are reported... now, as I say, how consistent and true a lot of these descriptions are in the first place is open to debate, but what's clear is that most of these supposed distinctions don't exist (or at least, not consistently) today

- the system of nasalised vowels has been simplified and the quality of some has changed, notably the nasalised 'e' vowel which is now closer to a nasalised 'a', and the merger of the vowels represented by "un" and "in", which are now essentially pronounced identically for most speakers

- a few other sounds have disappeared: French no longer has a palatal lateral phoneme (cf Italian "gli"), and the "back a" has now pretty much merged with the "front a"

- some liaison behaviours have changed, e.g. speakers would now rarely use liaison with the final -r of infinitives and with various other verb inflections, and the practice of removing final consonants in e.g. "cin(q) personnes" was more consistent a couple of centuries ago

- some of the details of the behaviour of "schwa" ("mute e") have changed, including it being removed or added in some places or its identity changed to an open "e" vowel (so e.g. "cependant" was apparently pronounced closer to "c'pendant"; "cet" was pronounced with a schwa...)

- the distribution of open vs close "e" vowels (and possibly "o" and "eu" vowels) have changed a little, so.e.g. "les" was once pronounced with an open "e" and now with a close "e"; the pattern of a close "e" for the future -ai ending and open "e" for other verb inflections was more systematic and intuitive than it is today

As you can see, though, the "broad system" as a whole hasn't essentially changed much-- arguably none of the above are new processes as such, but rather tweaking of existing ones.

Dear Neil,

The changes you explained is not "a lot" for me. Now that I know that French language hasn't changed so much in recent two centuries.

Do you have scientific paper(s) that includes information that you've given above? If so, can you upload them here?

Thank you.

Hi Ahmet -- I don't have papers just off the top of my head, but I would suggest Googling some of the things I've highlighted in bold and taking a look at:

(1) Books on the history of French language available in Kindle edition, e.g. and

(2) 18th/19th century French pronunciation guides and grammars available on Google Books (search for e.g. French Pronunciation and make sure you're searching with a date of 19th century)

P.S. The books I said are available in Kindle may also be available on iBooks or other electronic form of course --  I just happen to know they're available in Kindle.

Thank you for paying attention.


Follow BitterCoffey on Twitter

© 2022   Created by Neil Coffey.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service