French Corrective Phonetics Guide

The nasal vowel /ã/

The Nasal Vowel /ã/

The articulatory features of /ã/ are as follow: low, back, unrounded and nasal. Examples of words containing /ã/ are grand [gʁã] , sans [sã] , enfant [ãfã] , en [ã] . Be sure not to round the vowel since it will be interpreted as /õ/. Note that you will also encounter the symbol /ɑ̃/ as a variant of /ã/. Both represent the same vowel.

Spelling of /ã/

As we saw in the general section on nasal vowels, two main contexts exist:

a) "a" or "e" + "n" at the very end of a word, e.g.: pan [pã];

b) "a" or "e"  + "n"/"m" followed by a consonant letter, quand [kã], lent [lã], etc.

It is important to note that when the vowel is nasal, there is no nasal consonant pronounced. Its only role is to indicate that one must use a nasal vowel.

The two main spelling indications for /ã/ are "an" and "en", e.g.: sans, cent, sent, sang (these are homophones, i.e.: they are all pronounced [sã]).


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While "en" in the context of a nasal vowel usually represents /ã/, there are some exceptions, e.g.:

● words in -ien usually represent /ɛ̃/, e.g.: bien [bjɛ̃], rien [ʁjɛ̃], etc. (although Orient [ɔʁjã] and science [sjãs] do in fact have /ã/).

● the words examen [ɛgzamɛ̃] , pentagone [pɛ̃tagɔn] and appendice [apɛ̃dis] are prounounced with /ɛ̃/.

● the words faon "fawn" and paon "peacock" are pronounced with /ã/ ([fã] and [pã]).

 ● the word femme is pronounced [fam]


Écouter et écrire en orthographe normale:


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