Sunday, February 5, 2012

The pronunciation of jaune (yellow) in French

A Frenchman mentioned to me today that the au vowel sound in jaune (yellow) is often mispronounced, even by native French speakers, like an English "aw" sound (as in awning), when it should be pronounced like an English long o sound (as in lone).  I realized that I have been making this same mistake for years, possibly influenced by a misplaced expectation for the sound to be like the one in the English word jaundice, which shares the same first four letters.

However, there are many French words wherein the au vowel sound is pronounced like an English long o sound, e.g.:

  • au (to the)
  • chaud (hot)
  • gaufre (waffle)
  • haut (high)

so it seems clear to me that the vowel sound in jaune should be pronounced similarly.

This Frenchman said that many people from the Marseille region in France use this "mistaken" pronunciation, although he would classify it more as a regional variant.  Personally, I will try to break my longstanding "mistake", since I prefer to emulate standard Parisian French, and I will make enough other mistakes trying to do so!

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