Le schwa français (was: barbarisms)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, May 18, 2001, 5:40|
At 7:07 am -0400 17/5/01, John Cowan wrote:
>Lars Henrik Mathiesen scripsit:
>> For French words, it's 'last syllable pronounced in French'.
>> Guillo"tine, ge"le. However, any French silent -e came to be
>> pronounced in Danish (as schwa), which leads to lengthening of the
>> preceding (stressed) syllable.
>Or perhaps "was borrowed before French dropped final schwas"? When
>did that happen, anyway? It must be recent, because they are still
>pronounced in French singing, even in children's songs.
Not just final shwa, but shwa generally, cf. de l'eau [dlo], cheval [Sval]
etc. The process began, apparently, as early as the 14th century.
But it is one of the delights of French, that shwas are merely dormant;
they are, indeed, normally pronounced in verse, whether "serious grown-up"
poetry or in nursery songs. They also get pronounced in ordinary speech,
sometimes in accordance with the so-called "loi des trois consonnes", which
says that when /@/ is preceded by two consonants and followed by a third,
it must be pronounce, e.g. presque pas, notre père - and sometimes not in
accordance with it :)
As one book I have puts it:
"No attempt can here be made to discuss the many anomalies, fluctuations
and contradictions which the treatment of _@_ presents. They result not
only from the conflict of inherited habits of speech with new tendencies,
of the written word with the spoken, of the word as a separate entity with
its role in the speech-group; they exist as between different classes of
the community, and the occur in the speech of one and the same cultured
..and later the author writes:
"We have here but one of the many features which give to the French
language its flexibility and its adaptability to the mood and temper of the
I couldn't put it better myself.
Vive le français!
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]