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Is there even the slightest pronunciation difference between the words lavez and l'avez ?  If so, can you describe it or perhaps record it?

On the same track, are lavez, laver, lavait, and lavais all pronounced identically?

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I was taught at school  that "lavait, and lavais " were slightly different from "lavez and  laver"  ( a bit "flatter" I seem to remember)  but I suspect that  there may be no difference in practice (I think Chantal may have said something along those lines a while back).

But "lavez and l'avez"  would be pronounced identically surely.

Thank you, George.

You're referring to the first syllable being flatter in lavait than in lavez?  But the second syllables are identical?

Perhaps  I am misunderstanding you.

What I mean is that the second syllables in both "lavais" and "lavait" are  supposed  (in theory) to be pronounced a bit  differently from the second syllables in  both "laver" and "lavez" (the first syllables ,the "a"  being identical).

I couldn't really find you a recording since I believe that  the distinction may not be honoured in the practice.

Ah ha.  I understand now.  Thanks again.

Hi George --

As you're probably aware, French has an 'open' e sound (è) and a 'close' e sound (é). In the -ez ending, this is always pronounced as the close (é) variety. The infinitive -er ending is also always pronounced é.

Now, with the -ais/-ait endings, you'll find either pronunciation. A more conservative pronunciation would be to have the open variety (è). But it's extremely common nowadays to use the close variety (é), so that "avais", "avait" and "avez" are all pronounced identically.

But there's no consistent difference between "avais" and "avait". Either could be pronounced avé or avè depending on the speaker.

Which is why in French it is often quite necessary to use the subject pronouns.  In other Romance languages, Spanish and Italian for instance, subject pronouns may be dropped--the subject can be discerned in the verb declension.  In French you really need to say Je t'aime, where in Spanish you don't have to say Yo te amo.  Te amo  is just fine.  This French construction certainly helped me as an English speaker since the declension of French verbs often are pronounced exactly the same.

Although... this traditional argument of "you need subject pronouns because different verb forms sound the same" is often exaggerated. Think about English, for example, which has very little verb morphology. If on Facebook you write: "Went to lunch with my sister today", there's usually little doubt about who "went", even though theoretically it could be any grammatical person.

I was responding to the idea of pronunciation of spoken French posed by Dwayne at the top; not necessarily written language.

Interesting that Neil Coffey said two years ago that the alleged difference in pronunciation was "an invention for the purposes of the school "dictée" exercise".  See http://www.forum.french-linguistics.co.uk/forum/topics/voudrais-vs-....  Has he changed his mind?

Hi Jean -- The difference that is traditionally advocated for the dictée exercise is specifically in the conditional (-ais) vs future (-ai) forms. So it's a slightly different case-- although a similar observation holds in practice as to words ending in -ais in general: there's no consistent differentiation between the two forms (conditional vs future) and you can't tell just by listening to the word in isolation which tense is intended.

There should not logically  be any difference in pronounciation between "l'avez" and "lavez".

However,  many people slightly accentuate the consonant "L" in the case of "l'avez" [vous LL' avez], though I cannot figure out any realistic context where there could be a confusion in meaning.

Moreover, every time the elided pronoun "l' " (for "le" and "la") is used before a verb commencing with a vowel, the same accentuation is made though no confusion in meaning can take place. Ex. "Vous (l)l'aimez", "je (l)l'interroge", "tu (l)l'obtiens", etc. whereas "laimez", "linterroge", "lobtiens" just do not exist.

I believe the difference is something like - "Vous-l avez" rather than "Vous lavez". I.e. the l is pronounced with the vous in "Vous l'avez" but with the lavez in "Vous lavez", effectively causing a slight space between the words in the latter case. But I think this is barely noticeable in normal speech

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