French Corrective Phonetics Guide

Phonetic Symbols (overview)

Phonetic Symbols

The symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) provide a system where one symbol represents one sound. This is not the case for the standard spelling of French. For example, while the word beaucoup is written with eight letters, only four sounds are actually pronounced. The IPA allows us to more accurately represent the individual sounds of a given word, e.g.: [boku]. Some of the symbols are the same as letters used in spelling (e.g.: "b", "k"), while others are not. You will need to learn all the IPA symbols used for French. Note that individual phonetic symbols are represented between slashes, e.g.: /j/, while full words are transcribed between square brackets, e.g.: [paʁle].

We present below the IPA symbols for French. Each of these will be examined in more detail in the following chapters.

Vowels

/a/, e.g.: ma [ma] 

/e/, e.g.: aller [ale] 

/ɛ/, e.g.: allait [alɛ] 

/ə/, e.g.: vendredi [vãdʁədi] 

/i/, e.g.: dit [di] 

/o/, e.g.: beau [bo] 

/ɔ/, e.g.: botte [bɔt] 

/ø/, e.g.: feu [fø] 

/œ/, e.g.: seul [sœl] 

/u/, e.g.: vous [vu] 

/y/, e.g.: vu [vy] 

/ã/, e.g.: dans [dã] 

/õ/, e.g.: bon [bõ] 

/ɛ̃/, e.g.: vin [vɛ̃]

/œ̃/, e.g.: un [œ̃]

 

Consonants

/b/, e.g.: bon [bõ]

/d/, e.g.: dans [dã]

/f/, e.g.: téléphone [telefɔn]

/g/, e.g.: groupe [gʁup]

/ʒ/, e.g.: jambes [ʒãb] 

/k/, e.g.: coup [ku]

/l/, e.g.: loup [lu]

/m/, e.g.: mou [mu]

/n/, e.g.: nouveau [nuvo]

/ɲ/, e.g.: montagne [mõtaɲ] 

/p/, e.g.: pouvoir [puvwaʁ]

/ʁ/, e.g.: par [paʁ] 

/s/, e.g.: ses [se]

/ʃ/, e.g.: cher [ʃɛʁ]

/t/, e.g.: tout [tu]

/v/, e.g.: vivre [vivʁ]

/z/, e.g.: oser [oze]

 

Semi-consonants (aka semi-vowels)

/j/, e.g.: piano [pjano] 

/ɥ/, e.g.: lui [lɥi] 

/w/, e.g.: oui [wi]

 

Principles for Phonetic Transcription

1. Write only what you hear (or pronounce).

2. 1 symbol = 1 sound (or phoneme).

3. Just because it's written, doesn't mean it's spoken (i.e.: a letter is not a sound).

3. Don't use capital letters at the beginning of a transcription (that is a written convention, not a phonetic one).

4. Make sure your symbols are unambiguous (e.g.: don't use something in between /y/ and /ɥ/.

5. Use slashes for individual phonemes; use brackets for transcribing words.

 
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