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Full text of "Syllable and Word Division in French and English"

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SYLLABLE AND WORD DIVISION IN FRENCH AND 

ENGLISH 



Considered from the point of view of the mechanism of their 
production, English possesses two kinds of consonants: "initial" 
and "final"; whereas in French there is but one, "initial." Of 
what consequence is this difference in determining the formation 
and division of syllables and words ? 

In English, because of the continuity of the articulative effort, 
the syllable or word division occurs frequently within a consonant. 
In the pronunciation of easy, there are two z sounds: one, the implo- 
sion, is produced while the position for z is being assumed; the other, 
the explosion, while the tongue is leaving the same position. In 
such cases, one of the sounds is much weaker than the other, and 
usually we are not observant of it. 

Whether the implosion or the explosion will be strong is determined 
by the place of the accent. In position, the s ( = z) is pronounced with 
the second or accented syllable; in difference, the / is pronounced 
with the first or accented syllable. The plainly audible implosion 
or explosion is determined by the accented syllable. 

In like manner, owing to the continuity of pronunciation in 
English, combinations of consonants are produced with a remarkable 
economy of movement. In head department, or sit down, the d of 
head or the t of sit is produced while the tongue is assuming and 
holding the position of closure for d or t; the d of department or the 
d of dawn, while the tongue is holding and leaving the same position. 
In such cases, the consonant belonging to the accented syllable is 
strong; the one belonging to the unaccented syllable is weak, and 
at times scarcely audible. 

This economy of movement does not characterize the production 
of French consonant groups. In pronouncing f&te de I'ind&pendance 
amiricaine (Fig. 1), there is a cessation in the expulsion of breath 
just before the tongue assumes the position for the t; after the 
tongue has assumed position against the teeth and palate, the expira- 
tory effort is resumed; the air in the mouth is maintained an instant 

[Modern Philoloot, February, 1922J 321 



322 



James L. Babker 




Syllable and Word Division in French and English 323 




324 James L. Bahkeh 

under pressure behind the tongue, and, as the tongue leaves the 
position against the teeth, this pressure is released; the simultaneous 
downward movement of the tongue and the resultant explosion may 
be noted on the tracing by the upward movement of the line of the 
mouth (M) and the downward movement of the tongue (T). Fol- 
lowing the explosion of the t, the tongue again takes the same posi- 
tion for d, and d is then pronounced by means of the following mute 
e. Both the t and d are initial; the t of fUe and the d of de (Fig. 
1) are not produced by a single movement of the tongue as are the 
t and d of sit down, or the I and d in the American pronunciation of 
belle dame (Fig. 3), or of the two t's in netteU (Fig. 4), but a sepa- 
rate movement of the tongue may be noted in the line T, for each 
consonant. 

If the end-consonant and the beginning-consonant are both 
voiced or both mute, the tongue leaves the position of closure of 
the end-consonant sufficiently to permit of the explosion of the con- 
sonant, but does not return to a neutral position which would permit 
the ampoule 1 to refill with air, and, on its explusion as the tongue 
assumes position for the beginning-consonant, produce a separate 
distinctive curve. 2 

Thus in the French pronunciation of the I and d in belle dame 
(Fig. 2), or of the two t's in nettett (Fig. 5), or the two I'b in qu'elle 
Va dit (Fig. 6; cf. qu'elle a, Fig. 7), two separate curves do not ap- 
pear in the tracing for the line T, but the time is that of a double 
articulation. 

The treatment of consonant groups in English and French pro- 
nunciation is radically different: in English as many consonants as 

> The size of the ampoule, or rubber bulb, Is indicated by the accompanying figure. 




V 



« The experiments reproduced in this article were made with the appareil intcripteur 
at the laboratory of experimental phonetics directed by Abbe Rousselot at the College de 
Prance. 

The upper line, JV, gives the vibrations of the larynx taken through the nose; the 
second line, M, the vibrations from the mouth; the lower line, T, the movement of the 
tongue. For further detail, cf. my former article, Modern Philology, XIV (1916), 414. 

For a description of the appareil intcripteur, cf. Rousselot, Principet de Phoniligue, 
I, 61—101, or his Pride de Prononciation francaite, p. 14. 



Syllable and Word Division in French and English 325 



2 




326 



James L. Barker 



\ 



\ 







1 

8 



r 

6 

M 



l 



l 



o 



N 



**! 



* * 



Syllable and Word Division in French and English 327 

possible are pronounced with the accented syllable; in French, the 
whole group is placed with the second syllable, or, where mechanical 
difficulties make this impossible, the first consonant is pronounced 
as an initial consonant with the first syllable, and the remainder of 
the consonant group is pronounced with the second syllable. 

In Mr. Paillard's Parisian pronunciation of store and restaurant 
(Fig. 3), the line of the tongue, T, presents the same sort of curve 
for st in both words; s and t are pronounced initially also and belong 
with the second syllable, Mr. Paillard pronouncing the word re s'to ra, 
the spacing representing the place of syllable division. 

In Mr. Lote's pronunciation (Fig. 9), one may note the simi- 
larity of curve for st of both words, and, in addition, that Mr. Lote 
takes more time for the pronunciation of st in store than for st in 
restaurant; were the word divided into syllables between s and t, 
s and t would occupy more time in restaurant (because of the pause 
for the syllable division) than in store, where the pronunciation is 
continuous. 

The curve of the line T for st in Figures 8 and 9 is character- 
istic of "initial" consonants; 1 the curve of the fine T for st in Figure 
10 (Eng. restaurant) is typical of final consonants. In the pronuncia- 
tion of the English word, the consonants tend to be pronounced with 
the accented syllable; s is final or produced with the preceding vowel 
and the syllable division occurs between the implosion and the 
explosion of the t. 

In the French word extase (Fig. 11), the movement of the tongue 
as indicated by the line T produced a separate curve for each of the 
consonants of the group k s t. The pronunciation may be figured 
e k' s'ta z'; k, as shown by the sudden curve, is an initial consonant 
pronounced by means of the explosion (') and not by means of the 
preceding vowel e; s and t are initial consonants; s with its separate 
explosion produces the effect of vocalization; ( is pronounced by 
means of the vowel a. As indicated by the spacing, the syllable 

1 As I have shown in my former article (p. 419), all end-consonants in French, if 
analyzed with respect to the manner of their production, are not final at all, but initial, 
that is, produced by means of a following explosion. In English words the end-consonants 
are normally final or produced by means of the preceding vowel, while the vocal organs 
are assuming and maintaining the position characteristic of the consonant; initial con- 
sonants occur in English at the end of a word as a result of a phonetic necessity only, 
brought about by an accidental combination of consonants. 



328 



James L. Barker 




Syllable and Word Division in French and English 329 



u 




<:■ 



o 

<! 



f* 



O 

t-i 




* Si 



330 James L. Barker 

division occurs after k, and s and t are pronounced with the second 
syllable. 

In English ecstasy (Fig. 12), k and s are pronounced with the 
first syllable, t with the second; the pronunciation is continuous, the 
consonant positions are not held, and the transition from one con- 
sonant position to the other is so rapid that kst presents but a single 
curve. Ecstasy is divided into syllables thus, eks ta si. 

In AbbS Rousselot's pronunciation of extension (Fig. 13), 
the first curve of the line T is k, the second, s't; in the pronunciation 
of the English word extension (Fig. 14) by Mr. F. Durant Fox, of 
the University of London, there is but one curve for all three 
consonants. 

o b' s'ta k'le figures Mr. Lote's pronunciation of French obstacle 
(Fig. 15), and obs ta kel, Mr. Jackson's American pronunciation 
of the English word obstacle (Fig. 16). 

Figures 17 and 18 present types of the pronunciation in the 
two languages of the groups tr, pr, kr, etc. In English (Fig. 
18), the transition from t to r is so rapid that the two consonants 
offer but a single curve and from a comparison of the lines T and 
M , the explosion of the t and the production of the r, in part of their 
duration, are simultaneous. In Figure 17, there are two distinct 
curves for t and r; the explosion of the t, registered in the line M 
by a slight upward curve precedes the production of the r. The 
English pronunciation may be indicated tras, and the French, t'ra s'. 

At the end of words, the difference in treatment of the consonant 
group is no less marked. In French thedtre (Fig. 19), by comparing 
the curves of t and r in trace (Fig. 17), one may note the separation 
of t and r and their characteristic "initial" curves (cf. my former 
article, p. 417). Likewise, that they are initial is shown by the vibra- 
tions in the lines N and M after r, marking the voiced explosion by 
means of which r is pronounced. In Figure 20, note the low, flat 
curve of the final t; r is also a final consonant pronounced by means 
of an indistinct vowel preceding it (cf. so-called vocalic m, I, etc., in 
the Germanic languages). In Figure 20, theater is purposely 
accented on the second syllable and divided thus, the at er; French 
thSdtre (Fig. 19) is pronounced the d t're. 



Syllable and Word Division in Fbench and English 331 




-a 

a 

a 

fa 



8 

I 

6 

M 

fa 




332 



James L. Barker 




Syllable and Word Division in French and English 333 





"*\ 



S 

Si 



9 



4 

§ 

l 




fe ^ ^ fe: ^ 




fe:^ 6i 



334 James L. Barker 

In Figure 21, French temple is pronounced ta p'le, and in 
Figure 22, English temple is pronounced tern pel; the pronuncia- 
tion of the English word is continuous and the syllable division 
occurs between m and p. However, one lip-position serves for both 
consonants: the implosion is m, the explosion, p. 

Diphthongs proper abound in English and even single vowels are 
all more or less diphthongized. These diphthongs are distinguished 
by the continuous articulative effort and the gradual shifting of 
position of the vocal organs, characteristic of English pronunciation 
in general. French, on the contrary, possesses no diphthongs at all 
in the English sense of the term; thus in oui, the u position is taken 
definitely, held an appreciable length of time, then a quick transition 
is made to the i position which is held in turn without change in 
position of the vocal organs. In English we, the position of the 
vocal organs is ever changing during the pronunciation of both w 
and e. French efforts to imitate the English pronunciation of they, 
though, etc., do not afford examples ordinarily of a gradual change 
of position of tongue, jaw, etc., but rather the pronunciation of two 
distinct vowels with a rapid transition between them. 

Like French, English makes certain liaisons or Unkings, but in 
a wholly different manner. In French, a consonant between two 
vowels does not "link" the vowels together, but is pronounced 
entirely with the second vowel. A consonant at the end of the final 
word of a breath-group or of a sentence is pronounced by means of 
an explosion (or indistinct vowel which may be voiceless) following 
it; if there is no pause between the word to which the consonant 
belongs and the next word beginning with a vowel, then a separate 
indistinct vowel or explosion is unnecessary for the pronunciation 
of the end-consonant; the consonant utilizes the beginning vowel of 
the following word, thus il a is pronounced i la; ils out, i I'zo, etc. 
The term linking is descriptive of the English pronunciation of when 
ever, not at all, and similar word groups. One may figure the pro- 
nunciation, hwen nev ver and not ta tal. 

Because of the constant change of position of the vocal organs 
required in the production of "final" consonants, a drawl in English 
is only a normal pronunciation "slowed down"; whereas, owing to 
the absence of final consonants in French, positions are held and 



Syllable and Word Division in French and English 335 




<^ 



V 



* * 



336 James L. Barker 

transitions are rapid; no Frenchman drawls, the mechanism of the 
language does not permit it. 

This difference in general movement may be best appreciated by 
comparing Abbe" Rousselot's (Fig. 23) and Mr. Fox's (Fig. 24) 
pronunciation of Vous connaissez Bdlet The respective curves 
for k indicate that Mr. Fox pronounced with more energy 
than Abbe* Rousselot, but in the tracing of Abbe* Rousselot's pro- 
nunciation, there are distinct curves for n and s, for which curves 
are very slight or even lacking in Mr. Fox's pronunciation. In 
Mr. Fox's pronunciation there is gradual change, and positions of 
vowels and consonants are not held but are only points of passage 
on the path to the next position, which, on being reached, is likewise 
only a point of transition. On the contrary, Abbe* Rousselot takes 
positions definitely, holds them an appreciable length of time, and 
makes his transitions during the cessation of the articulative effort. 

James L. Barker 
University op Utah