French Corrective Phonetics Guide

Assibilation of Dental Consonants in Canadian French

Assibilation of Dental Consonants in Canadian French

One characteristic of dental stops in Canadian French is the assibilation of /t/ and /d/ in certain (linguistic) contexts. By assibilation, we simply mean the addition of a /s/ or a /z/ after the stop, e.g.: [pei] for "petit" and [dᶻi] for "dit".

Another way of describing assibilation would be to say that the sound begins as a stop, but finishes as a fricative when released. This pronunciation is not stigmatized and can be heard in the speech of most Canadian francophones in most situations.

When you think of it, assibilation is quite natural. The fricative (/s/ or /z/) provides a bridge between a sound involving air blockage (i.e.: a stop consonant) and a sound involving free air flow (i.e.: a vowel).

When do Speakers Assibilate?

The assibilation of dental stops happens in a very specific linguistic context, namely, before vowels and semi-consonants that are both high AND front (i.e.: before /i/, /y/, /j/ and /ɥ/.

We see therefore that there are two necessary conditions for assibilation to occur:

 

a) there has to be a dental stop, i.e.: /t/ or /d/

b) it has to be followed by a high, front vowel or semi-consonant.

 

Let's consider some words to see if they would have assibilation in Canadian French: dans, type, tu, pipe, tiens, doux, :

 

1. dans [dã] Assibilation does NOT occur. There is a dental stop, /d/, but it is not followed by something high and front.

2. type [tip] Assibilation DOES occur: a dental stop, /t/, is followed by a high, front vowel, /i/. The pronunciation would therefore be [tˢɪp] .

3. tu [ty] Assibilation DOES occur: a dental stop, /t/, is followed by a high, front vowel, /y/. The pronunciation would therefore be [tˢy] .

4. pipe [pip] Assibilation does NOT occur. There is a high, front vowel (/i/), but no dental stop.

5. tiens [tjɛ̃] Assibilation DOES occur: a dental stop, /t/, is followed by a high, front semi-consonant, /j/. The pronunciation would therefore be [tˢjɛ̃] .

6. doux [du] Assibilation does NOT occur. There is a dental stop, /d/, but it is not followed by something high and front (/u/ is a back vowel).

7. [dy] Assibilation DOES occur: a dental stop, /d/, is followed by a high, front vowel, /y/. The pronunciation would be /dᶻy/ .

 

 
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