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THE French Alphabet consists of twenty-five letters, viz. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, x, y, z.
Of these, six are vowels, and nineteen consonants. The vowels are, a, e, i, o, u, y.
Three accents are used in French, the acute', the grave', and the circumflex ^. They affect the sound and the quantity of the vowels over which they are placed.
A, unaccented, is short, as in malade, sick; but it is long and broad in páte, paste; áme, soul; marátre, stepmother. The grave accent, used upon the preposition à, to, and adverb là, there, does not alter its sound; it is used merely to distinguish the preposition from the verb il a, he has; and the adverb from the article la, the.
E, unaccented, is called e muet: me, me; le, the; repos, At the end of a word, it is scarcely heard; it is, as it were, whispered; monde, world; homme, man; Rome, Rome.
E, with the acute accent, is called é fermé. It is sounded as in vérité, truth; générosité, generosity; été, summer. The sound is short.
E, with the grave or the circumflex accent, is called e ouvert; è, é: prèt, ready; nièce, niece; nèfle, medlar; méme, same; téte, head.
Observe, that è, é have the same sound; but there is a difference as to quantity: è is short, and é is long.
I, unaccented, is short: fini, ended; inimitable, inimitable; épine, spine; pilote, pilot. With the circumflex accent, it is long, gíte, abode.
Remember, that i is never sounded in French as in the English word rise; but always as in dignity.
O, unaccented, is sounded short, as in botte, boot; monopole, monopoly; but with the circumflex accent, it is called grave, and sounded long, as in cóte, coast; apótre, apostle.
U retains the same sound, whether accented or not; but it is long, with the circumflex accent: uni, united; public, public; flute, flute.
Y has the sound of I. Lyre, lyre; physique, physics; mythologie, mythology. After another vowel, it is pronounced as double i; pays, country, (sounded as pai-is); envoyer, to send, (sounded as en-voi-ier).
The combinations, au, eau, ai, eu, ou, are called, by some, compound vowels. Their sounds are exemplified in aurore, aurora; bateau, boat; aimable, lovely; balai, broom; Europe, Europe; Dieu, God; bleu, blue; mourir, to die; douter, to doubt.
Ois, ais, eois, eais, oient, aient, in verbs, and in some names of nations, are also compound vowels, and sounded as é. Anglois, English; je parlais, I spoke; ils nageaient, they swam; ils allaient, they went.
Oi, ois, are diphthongs in loi, law; moi, me; bois, wood; foi, faith; toi, thee; moisir, to grow mouldy, &c.
The nasal vowels are am, an; em, en; im, in ; om, on; um, un. Their sounds are exemplified in ramper, to crawl; danser, to dance: emplir, to fill; entendre, to hear: impót, tax; infini, infinite: pompe, pomp; don, gift: parfum, perfume; un, one.
As in, are pronounced, aim, ain, ein; in faim, hunger; daim, deer; nain, dwarf; teindre, to dye, &c. &c.
Of the consonants, b, d, f, h, k, m, n, p, q, r, v, z, are pronounced as in English before vowels, and require, therefore, no observation; but c, g, j, l, s, t, x, offer some difference.
C is sounded hard as in English before a, o, u, l, r; as cabale, cabal; clameur, clamour; but before e, i, and y, it has the sound of s, as in cela, that; certain, certain. Ch is pronounced as in chemin, road; chapeau, hat; but before r it has the sound of k, as chrétien, Christian.
G is pronounced hard before a, o, u, r, and l, as gant, glove; gomme, gum; grand, great; gloire, glory, &c.; and soft before e, i, and y, as germe, germ; agir, to act; gymnase, gymnasium.
G, when coupled with n, has generally what is called the liquid sound, as in dignité, dignity. But g has its hard and distinct sound in stagnation, inexpugnable, régnicole.
Jis pronounced as in jeune, young; jardin, garden.
L final, and ll in the middle of a word, preceded by an i, generally have the liquid sound, as in travail, work; brillant, brilliant; brouillard, mist; mouiller, to wet.
S, at the commencement of words, has the same sound as in English, as soldat, soldier. When placed between two vowels, it has generally the sound of z, as in rusé, cunning.
T, at the beginning of words, is sounded as in English, as in tourment, torment; but ti, followed by a vowel, is generally pronounced like c, and in words ending in tion: action, attention, portion, ambition, partial, patient, ambitieux, except question, digestion, bastion, mixtion.
X has the sound of ks, as in luxe, luxury; of gz, as in exemple, example; of ss, as in Bruxelles; and of z, as in sixième, sixth.
Final consonants are not sounded in French; habit, coat; repas, repast; impót, tax; retard, delay. Except proper names derived from the Latin, the Greeks, and the Spaniards, Anacharsis, Pallas, Vénus, Ximenès, Romulus. It may be said, in this respect, that most terminations, in French, are sounded as simple vowels. Thus, pronounce as
a, drap, cloth; rat, rat; chat, cat; logea, lodged. á, dégát, havock; appats, charms; repas, repasts; las, tired; almanachs, almanacks.
é, parler, to speak; je dirai, I will say; pied, foot; clef, key.
è, il met, he pats; il parlait, he spoke; du lait, milk. é, mes, my; tes, thy; ses, his ; les, the; filets, nets; paix,
i, lit, bed; il dit, he says.
í, lits, beds; délits, crimes; ils rient, they laugh.
ó, chaud, warm; nouveaux, new; pots, pots.
u, il lut, he read; il eut, he had.
ou, loup, wolf; vous, you.
The diæresis, or tréma (·), gives a distinct and separate
sound to the letter on which it is placed; as, haïr, to hate; naïf, simple; Judaïsme, Judaism.
As an Exercise on the above rules, and the means of obtaining information from the master on such points as could not be introduced within the limits of this chapter, it is recommended that the teacher should read, and the pupil repeat after him, a certain portion of the following words, till the pronunciation of the latter be sufficiently settled to allow of his reading consecutive sentences.
ne parlez plus,
dans ma chambre,
speak no more.
there is somebody.
it is for me.
towards the heavens.
in a corner.
relieve that old man.
ent in verbs is sounded like e muet.
GRAMMARIANS have divided words into classes. These classes, or Parts of Speech, are, the Substantive, the Article, the Adjective, the Pronoun, the Verb, the Adverb, the Preposition, the Conjunction, and the Interjection.
Substantives serve to express the names of persons or things; as, Jean, John; Louise, Louisa; livre, book. Substantives are either common or proper.
The substantive common is that which is used to name all beings or things of the same kind; such as homme, man; roi, king; ville, town, &c.
The substantive proper can be applied to one person or one thing only, as Pierre, Peter; Londres, London.
Amongst the substantives common, we must distinguish those that are collective.
The substantives collective are those which, though in the singular, present to our minds the idea of a collection of objects of the same kind; as, une armée, an army; une flotte, a fleet; le peuple, the people; la foule, the crowd, &c.
OF THE GENDER AND NUMBER OF SUBSTANTIVES.
There are two genders in French, the masculine, and the feminine.