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Why do some French pronounce 'òu'  as  'oof' ?



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I am not sure to understand, but maybe it's for the word "fou" ?

If it's this one, or some other words with "fou", it's in slang language named "verlan" = "back to front" :  the words are reversed, syllable by syllable.

do you have examples of some words you heard ?


Yes, from one of the excellent 'chapters' of the BBC's 'Ma France' set of 24 interactive French videos on various topics presented as editor in chief by  Stephane Cornicard. I hope you will be able to access this link. The presenter  very soon after the start of the piece on 'Walking', number #13, asks of the experienced hiker : 'Alors, on va où?' and can clearly be heard to say 'oof' for où.


Then, in the video on property sale #12, the presenter asks of a specialist at an agence immobiliere the price of a house not once but three times just to hear her pronounce 'euros', I fancy.  She says the house costs 329,000 euorof.


Why the 'f' after both words? Local Marseille practice?



You are not imagining it!

It is new to me too!

At first I thought it was the sound of  the microphone (too close to the mouth) but maybe it  is ,as you say, just the way some people talk.

I like that site too.


Thnks George.

Ok I heard. I try to explain.

1) the sound for "o" or "ou" in these words are at the end of the word, and even in the end of the sentence, and these two people stop speaking  after this word. At least they wait a few seconds so the last syllabe is more extended. And these sound "o" and "ou" are pronounced with a blast, with a breathing out. It's not really a "ffff" we hear but the breathing out.

2) The two people who speak have a little accent : The first one has a very very light English accent. And the second one has a light french southerner accent.  I think that other people (from Paris for example)  pronounce "o" or a "ou" less breathed, but it's not sure.

Thnks Chantal, yes that makes sense, if I may say so. 

But these pronouncers must, one assumes, hear what they are saying, and hear the sound we hear as 'fff'. That in reality makes the word pronounced in actual fact 'ouffff'.

It is clear, I think we all agree, that 'ou' does not therefore become 'ouf', just that the SOUND is 'ouf'.


I think you hear the "fff" amplified because it's difficult to understand the sound in another language.

If you haven't told me, I would never be careful. I hear it, but I think I am used to. We can't make a mistake in this case.

it's common to finish a sentence with a breath out and we are in this case, here.

Remember that what you "hear" is the actual sound (i.e. fluctuations in air pressure detected by your ear) combined with the processing applied to it by your brain. Whether or not you "hear" something that you perceive of as being an "f sound" depends on how your brain is 'trained' to process the signal in question.

You can find all sorts of cases where what you "hear" is not objectively what is actually in the auditory signal. When somebody says "good morning", you hear the word "good", even though phonetically what they actually said was probably closer to "goob morning". When somebody says the word "university", you "hear" the second "i" vowel, even though if you were to actually take a recording and actually try and isolate the second "i" in your audio editing software, you probably wouldn't find much of a trace of it. Similarly, if you record a typical (i.e. not "careful") pronunciation of the word "haze", which you probably think of and "hear" as ending in a "z" sound, then isolate it in your audio software, you'll probably find that it is actually much closer to a "s" sound.

Hi Pete --

What you're hearing isn't an "f" as such, though for acoustic reasons it can sound a bit like this in a low-quality recording or low-bandwidth reproduction over the Internet.

Essentially what is happening is that the speaker is ending their utterance with what is sometimes called an 'off-glide': they "follow through" after the vowel with some air, but no longer sufficient[*] for the vocal cords to vibrate, and what you essentially end up with is a little 'puff of air' with some of the quality of the preceding vowel. (Or, if you want to see it that way, you end up with a partially devoiced vowel.)

[*] Not 'sufficient' doesn't necessarily mean 'not enough'. As they 'follow through' after the vowel, it could also be that they force too much air through for the vocal cords to vibrate: I'm not actually sure how well the precise details of the airflow have been studied here and it could well depend on the speaker/vowel in question. In some cases, you can hear quite a lot of frication, which indicates high airflow.

It's common at the end of a phrase or utterance that ends in one of the high vowels in French (so the vowels in "tu", "qui", "du", "do").

Thnks Neil,  very comprehensive as usual. 

But could I ask you to listen to the estate agent? The interviewer, I seem to have the impression, is stunned and not a little amused I would have thought, about the 'eurof' for 'euros' and so on no less than two separate occasions asks the agent for the price, and on one of those occasions, asks her to repeat it. 

I am afraid each time I can here clearly hear the 'f' even accentuated! And after the price has been given, a longish pause after the 'eurof'. Am I imagining it, but I think also that the agent is aware of the odd pronunciation, and smiles rather knowingly rather more than usual.

I think you can hear the effect at the end of quite a few  of her other words.It is a bit like Ronnie Corbett in one of  his sketches where he plays a man who  whistles at the end of  his sentences (I can't find it on Youtube to post) .

She is a bit "breathy" to my ears.

The woman  speaking in the video have focus of southern France , Provencal focus but it is indeed the "where= où".


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