Forum Rocket French French Vocab mai-ntenant vs. ma-intenant

mai-ntenant vs. ma-intenant

VitN

VitN

Salut,

from the very first Rocket French lessons I kept wondering about pronunciation of the word maintenant.  Some pronounce it as -what I would write-  mai-ntenant , some as ma-intenant.  Obviously, the voice recognition accepts both, no problem.  But, just as curiosity, which one is the more proper?

Merci,

Vít Novák

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Vít,

 

The correct pronunciation should split the word along the syllables i.e. main-te-nant, but people fudge it in all sorts of ways depending on their accents. 

 

It's one of those super basic and annoyingly long words (given it's basic meaning) which is often contracted or blurred, in much the same way that people rarely say “I do not know” in English; they will opt for something shorter like ‘dunno’.

 

I want to make sure I'm not muddying the waters here though, the word ‘maintenant’ is never officially contracted like ‘I do not know' can be in English, it's more a fudging of the pronunciation.

 

I hope this helps,

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

I'm pretty sure that the question was, is it pronounced mayntenant or mahntenant or possibly muhntenant. To me, this falls into the same category as prochaine, semaine, etc., which one will also hear pronounced variously. My personal choice tends toward the sound of the second syllable in the English, “cement”, with some fudging toward “mein”, since it's the way people say it when they're speaking French the way I like to hear it (for lack of a better reason). Otherwise, I have no idea if there's a “right” way. Just trying to clarify the question. Sorry, if I'm not correct about that.

 

Robert 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Hi Robert,

 

Aha, I misunderstood then.

The pronunciation should be standard across a variety of words, i.e. like the ones you mentioned. The first syllable of maintenant should sound just the same as main (hand). I'm going to attempt to break down the pronunciation. 

 

NASAL SOUND - when it happens and how to make it:

This first syllable is a nasal sound which is produced when any vowel is followed by an M or an N and either nothing or another consonant. If it the M or N is followed by another vowel then it is voiced, it is no longer a nasal sound. I'm going to use ‘prochaine’ as mentioned by Robert as an example of the difference.

  • Prochain (masculine adjective) - nasal sound where the ‘ai’ rises up into the nose and the final ‘n’ is not voiced.
  • Prochaine (feminine adjective) - voiced consonant where the ‘ai’ dives forward to the front of the mouth where the ‘n’ is voiced.

 

If the description of the nasal sound there wasn't clear, then imagine saying the ‘pang’ (as in a sudden sharp pain) but stopping before you say the ‘ng’, this is essentially the pronunciation of ‘pain’ (bread). 

 

If that doesn't work, then here is a list of words which have the same vowel sound ɛ̃, so if you can accurately say one or more of these, then simply transfer that sound through to maintenant:

  • vin (wine)
  • pain (bread)
  • plein (full)
  • bien (good/well)

 

Let me know if this help,

   -   Mitchell

VitN

VitN

Salut Mitchell,

Your first answer was the one I was after: the rule that decides.  The rule is to split along the syllables. With the word like maintenant, that takes a little effort… of laziness people slur it.  I was getting an impression that it may even be correct, as it is so common.

Merci

Vít Novák

RobertC106

RobertC106

Well, ok then, Vit! I'm really glad that Mitchell understood you and that your satisfied with the answer, because I really don't understand the question! So, I guess I'm either guilty of something or just lucky that I'm not, and hopefully you won't mind if I hijack this thread.

 

Mitchell, yours is a very good description of the nasal sound and the difference that pronouncing the N makes. Your choice of examples is also intriguing since the significant difference in pronunciation is illustrated by the M and F versions of the same word. I have to admit that I probably default to the feminine version because it's a more familiar pronunciation, and also because so many of the nouns commonly used with prochain(e) are, in fact, feminine. (semaine, sortie, fois, … ) So, definitely something to listen for and be careful of!

 

I also find maintenant to be a very interesting word, since the rule that you quoted requires that the N is silent, but the pronunciation of the T makes that seemingly impossible. Take the word, compter, in which the mp are replaced by the nasal sound you described, but pronunciation of the t produces a distinctive N sound when the two sounds are combined. It seems the T requires you to move the voice to the front of the mouth just as you would if you were pronouncing the N.

 

As for the vowel sound itself, I think your list of four words is interesting since it ranges from vin, which offers very little wiggle room to bien, which has to be the single most variously pronounced word that I can think of in the French language. You seem to be recommending what I would refer to as the “higher-pitched” version.

 

Robert

 

devbanana

devbanana

Mitchell, that was an extraordinarily useful description of the nasal vowel. I don't have too much trouble with it, but that helped me understand it even more.

 

Robert, I get what you mean. It reminds me of a word like cinq, where you do tend to hear a bit of the N as it goes into the Q, yet still it's nasally.

 

When I look up maintenant on Forvo, you do tend to hear a little of the N. Not sure if I can post a link but I'll try:

 

https://forvo.com/word/maintenant/

 

I like the second pronunciation the best and that tends towards how I pronounce it.

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour à tous!

 

@Vít, I'm glad I was able to answer your question!

 

@Robert, I'm glad you found the nasal explanation useful and I find one of the best ways of comparing nasal vs. voiced sounds is to compare masculine and feminine equivalents. 

Perhaps the rule I explained above was not entirely clear. It is not that the N or M is silent, but rather that they are produced (as much as they can be) in the nose/throat, which I want to distinguish from being silent.

As for the example you used of ‘compter’, you are correct in noticing that it sounds like the nasal consonant is voiced more than it is. That is because the stress moves to the front of the mouth to aspirate the T and this naturally drags the nasal vowel forward to the voiced position.

Regarding the examples I used, I'm not entirely sure what you mean by “higher-pitched” version; they were based on the IPA pronunciation and in standard French, they should all produce the same sound. What will influence the sounds are accent, stress, contractions and in some cases particular vowel combinations. Here is a list of the nasal sounds in case you were referring to that nasal i being higher pitched than other nasal vowels.

  1. ɑ̃ - nasal a - an, am, en, em (sans, champs, vent etc.)
  2. ɛ̃ - nasal i - ain, aim, ein, eim, en, em, in, im, un, um, ym, ym (impair, daim, plein, pain)
  3. ɔ̃ - nasal o - on, om (un, parfum)
  4. œ̃ - nasal u - un, um (son, nom)

These sounds can be practiced using the simple sentence: un bon vin blanc.

 

@devbanana, I'm glad the explanation helped you solidify your understanding. 

 

I hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Yes, my bad. It's the nasal version of the N, not silent N. And D has the same effect on the nasal N as T, so the difference between something like chacun and chacun de is really striking.

So, yes, I knew that your four words were chosen because the vowel sound was the same. So, for purposes of the discussion, let me define the vowel sound in, la, as,  a.   So, as in the case of my preferred tutor audio voice, I say van, pan, plan (from now on, anyway) and bian for vin, pain, plein and bien, respectively. However, I have heard many different pronunciations of bien in the lessons ranging from biaan, as in the sound sheep make, to biuhn. Furthermore, although I'm accustomed to saying mentenant and prochen (masc.), (as in Eng. cement) I now realize that the same voice says, mantenant and prochan, so I'll work on that. However, that same voice and many others say, prochene, when saying the feminine version of prochain(e). Comments?

 

Robert

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

Yes, both D and T have exactly the same effect on the nasal sound in question because both are produced in exactly the same position; the only difference being that T is aspirated and D is not.

 

BIEN

The pronunciation for official French from France remains as I stated above, however yes, you will hear a plethora of variations. Just imagine the word ‘good’ in English, the pronunciation varies enormously all over the world due to accent, stress, emphasis, tone etc. This is more or less the same phenomenon. 

 

E vs. I (ɛ̃) / A (ɑ̃)

As in the table below you will notice there is no nasal E, but rather it falls into the nasal A or I category depending on the word. 

  1. ɑ̃ - nasal a - an, am, en, em (sans, champs, vent etc.)
  2. ɛ̃ - nasal i - ain, aim, ein, eim, en, em, in, im, un, um, ym, ym (impair, daim, plein, pain)
  3. ɔ̃ - nasal o - on, om (un, parfum)
  4. œ̃ - nasal u - un, um (son, nom)

En and em are usually pronounced as the nasal A, BUT if they come after é, i or y then they are pronounced as a nasal I

  • européen
  • végétarien

 

Prochain and Prochaine (and any other masc./fem. equivalents)

You are correct in hearing prochaine as more of an E. In the masculine version (prochain) everything moves back and up into the nasal cavity, whereas in the feminine version (prochaine), the end goal is dive forward to the front of the mouth and voice the N. From here on, I'm guessing a little and chalking it up to French euphony. This restricts the mouth and keeps it closed. To say an open A, you would have to first open you mouth and then close it to voice the N which is where the feminine stress should be. 

For ‘official’ pronunciation refer to the audio in this LaRousse dictionary https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/prochain/64068

 

Accents (both English and French)

I hope I've answered your questions adequately. There is a tendency for me to struggle to explain pronunciation online like this due to the fact that many people have different accents and ascribe different sounds and pronunciations to different letters. For example, my New Zealand version of this E in ‘cement' might sound more like a blunt I.

Explanations are great (and I hope I'm helping), but they should always be used in tandem with other references, hence the link the the LaRousse dictionary above. 

Another point to make here is to be wary of which French accents you are hearing. At Rocket French it should be official from France, but I've seen many resources out which inadvertently using Quebec French or another accent from a French territory for example. This is not hugely consequential but I thought it was worth a mention.

 

I hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

 

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour Mitchell.

 

Whenever I refer to the manner(s) of speaking that I hear, I'm always referring to what I hear within the Rocket lessons. In fact, I spend so much time here that whenever I try to get listening comprehension practice elsewhere, I feel handicapped because there's so much more variability in the overall manner of speaking than I'm accustomed to. Rocket voices are very “considerate”.

 

And, yes, there's a lot of room for confusion in using English pronunciation as a reference when not everyone pronounces their English the same. As it turns out, what I'm hearing in the pronunciation of prochain, etc., in the lessons is extremely close to the recording at the LaRousse site, so I'm feeling ok with that. I have also found the following site very helpful:

mimicmethod.com/french-pronunciation-ultimate-guide/

 

I've also noticed that the pronunciation of im and in at the beginning of sentences is consistent with the discussion (i.e., a sort of ah sound), but one exception I've noticed is inévitable. Is there a rule there somewhere? I thought there might be a rule indicating the pronunciation of prochaine vs prochain, but I think your explanation is perfectly reasonable.

 

Thanks for going over this stuff.

 

Robert

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