Forum Rocket French French Vocab dernier / premier : pronunciation

dernier / premier : pronunciation

RobertC106

RobertC106

I have never seen it described anywhere, but I'm nevertheless convinced that dernier and premier are pronounced more as dernière  and première, respectively, when they occur before a masculine noun that begins with a vowel or a mute h. ex. le dernier appel ;  le dernier endroit ; le premier enfant ; le premier hôtel ;  le premier étage ; le premier avril (the first of April).

 

It's so obvious that I thought they must be mistakes, but now I'm convinced that it must be some sort of unspoken (jeu de mots volontaire) convention.

 

Robert

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

You are correct. 

 

This belongs to the concept of liaison which is in effect irrespective of gender. As you know, a liaison means pronouncing the final consonant (an otherwise unpronounced consonant of a word) to link it with the next word which begins with a vowel, or inded mute h.

 

When dernier is pronounced in isolate, then the r is basically dropped, or it sounds almost like a ‘y’ that you trail off on. In this case, pronunciation remains at the front of the mouth and you are left with what is effectively a vowel sound. That, obviously, cannot be linked to another vowel so we have to pronounce the ‘r’. In order to do that, we have to shift the pronunciation to the back of the mouth to pronounce the ‘r’ and that movement to the back of the mouth/throat is what give it the feminine sound.

 

Does that make sense?

 

I hope this helps,

 

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour Mitchell.

 

Yes, it makes perfectly good sense. It is, however, a ‘special case’ of liaison since it goes beyond the simple sliding of the last letter onto the following word, and instead requires a quite different pronunciation of the entire last syllable. And, yes, as you described, it can't very well be done any other way. Nevertheless, it does coincide with the pronunciation of the form of the word that's applied to the opposite gender, which makes it sound wrong, and I doubt that there's any other example of this, if for no other reason than, adjectives don't normally precede nouns.

 

So, yes, obviously an instance of liaison, but a very unusual one, and not, I think, where one would expect it, so quite confusing if/when it finally occurs to the learner. I didn't catch it until I was on my 4th time through Travelogue!! C'est le dernier appel (It's the last call). I thought, What the heck is that? I think it's worth a mention and an example in Lesson 8.6, or some such place (someday).

 

Robert

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