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PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Language is properly defined to be the means of communicating ideas, and may be divided into oral and written, but the latter is merely symbolical of the former.

The rules which by custom have obtained for the government of a language are properly the subject of grammar.

As if by common consent of civilized mankind, all languages are subject to certain primary rules or principles ; and the French language, like every other, is governed as well by those general principles of grammar as by its own peculiar rules.

[The mode of speaking.peculiar to a language is called the idiom (idios, idios, peculiar) of that language. Thus, “ Is Mr. A. at home?” is a phrase conformable to the idiom of the English language. If we translate this into French (Monsieur A. est-il chez lui ?), and retranslate the expression into English, we should say, “Mr. A. is he at home?” This would be an English phrase, written according to the idiom of the French language.]

Language consists of sentences, sentences consist of words, and words may be divided into syllables and letters. Words

may either be composed of one or more syllables, hence the terms monosyllable, dissyllable, trisyllable, polysyllable.

A syllable may be defined to be that portion of a word which is produced by a single articulation of the voice, and it may be composed of one or more letters.

Letters then, the most elementary parts of written language, represent also the elementary sounds of the language, the proper utterance of which constitutes a good accent.


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PRINCIPLES OF PRONUNCIATION. 1. The French alphabet has twenty-five letters: 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. These letters are named in French as follows: a, , , , é, èffe, , ash, i, ji, ka, èlle, èmme, ènne, o, , ku, èrre,

èsse, , u, , ikce, i grec, zède. 2. When the letters are named with the indefinite article, we say in French : Un a, un () b, un () c, un () d, un é, une (èffe) f, un () g, une (ash) h, un i, un (ji) j, un (ka) k, une (elle) 1, une (emme) m, une (ènne) n, un o, un () p, un (ku) q, une (èrre) r, une (èsse) s, un () t, un u, un () v, un (ikce) x, un i grec, un (zède) z.




They are also pronounced by modern grammarians :a, be, ke or ce, de, e, fe, gue or ge, he, i, je, ke, le, me, ne, o, pe, ke, re,

se, te, d, e, kse, 1 grec, xe. In the new pronunciation, e, after each consonant, is sounded as e in the English word battery.

To these letters we may add w (double v), which is found in a few French words borrowed from other languages, as whist (pronounced ouiste), etc. We might also add ce, which is found in a few words, as cæur, heart; seur, sister; Edipe, etc.

3. The vowels, or simple emissions of the voice, are a, e, i, o, u, and y (i grec).

4. The other letters are called consonants, being articulated with the assistance of vowels.

The six vowels express only five sounds, i and y (after a consonant) being pronounced alike; but as the French language has several other sounds, the deficiency of letters to convey them is partly supplied by marks called accents, and by various graphical combinations hereafter explained.


OF ACCENTS AND OTHER GRAMMATICAL SIGNS. 5. Accents generally denote the peculiar sounds of the vowels; some, however, serve to distinguish words spelt alike, but of different signification.

6. There are three accents: the acute accent, l'accent aigu ("); the grave accent, l'accent grave (\); and the circumflex accent, l'accent circonflexe (^).

7. The acute is placed over the vowel e only, and gives it an acute or slender sound; as vérité, truth.

8. The grave placed over e, generally gives that vowel a broad or open sound; as près, near.

9. The grave accent has also other uses; it is placed over à, to, at; , there; , where, and dès, as soon, to distinguish those words from a, has; la, the, her or it; ou, or, and des, some. It is placed over the penultimate e of certain words which end with E-e, separated by a single consonant, or by two consonants belonging to the last syllable, when the last e is unaccented; as modèle, model; zèle, zeal; règle, rule. The grave accent is also used over the termination es, when s is an essential part of the word ; as in congrès, congress; après, after; très, very, to distinguish it from the accidental termination es, as in congres (plural of congre), congers, sea-eels; noces, nuptials; tu parles, thou speakest; tu es, thou art; les, the; mes, my; tes, thy, etc.

10. The circumflex is found on a few vowels which have a broad and open sound; as grace, gracefulness; tempête, tempest; méme, same; apótre, apostle.

The circumflex accent indicates the suppression of a vowel, as in âge, rôle, roll; bâiller, to gape (which used to be written aage, roole, baailler), paiment, gaiment (paiement, gaiement), or of an s, as in tête, head; gîte, home; côte, coast; flûte (formerly teste, giste, coste, fluste). It is also used in many words derived from the Latin where a syllable is cut off, as âme, anima (soul), and especially in verbs, as nous aimâmes, amavimus (we loved); vous aimâtes, amavistis (you loved), etc.

The circumflex accent is likewise placed over mûr, ripe; sûr, sure; crú, grown*; and dú, due; to distinguish those words from mur, wall; sur, sour; cru, believed; and du, of or from the.

11. The apostrophe, l'apostrophe ('), marks the elision or suppression of the final vowel of a word placed before another word beginning with a vowel or an h mute; as l'ami, the friend, for le ami; l'áme, the soul, for la ame; l'homme, the man, for le homme, etc.

The elision of the final vowel occurs in le, the, her, it; la, the, her, it; je, I; me, me; te, thee; se, one's self; de, of, from; ce, that; ne, not; and que, that, when followed by a word beginning with a vowel or an h mute. The elision of i occurs in si, if, when followed by il, he, it; and ils, they: s'il vient, if he comes; s'ils y consentent, if they consent to it.

But e and a do not suffer elision in ce, de, le, la, que, before ouate, wadding; oui, yes; onze, eleven, and onzième, eleventh; la ouate; le oui et le non; le onze du mois, the eleventh of the month. The elision of e and a in je, ce, le, la, does not likewise take place when these words come after a verb, as in ai-je eu des amis? have I had friends? Est-ce un livre qu'il vous faut? Is it a book you want? Moyennant ce, il consentira. On that condition, he will consent. Amenez-le ici, bring him here. Laissez-la en ces lieux, leave her in that place.

The e of jusque, until, as far as, suffers elision before a vowel: jusqu'à Lyon, as far as Lyons; jusqu'ici, as far as this place. Sometimes jusque takes a final s for the sake of euphony: jusques à quand ? how long? The e final of entre, between, suffers elision in the compound words: entr'acte, interval between the acts; s'entr'aider, to assist each other; entr'ouvrir, to half-open; s'entr'accuser, to accuse each other; s'entr'aimer, to love each other; s'entr'égorger, to kill

* Je crois, I grow, je crús, I grew, are distinguished in the same manner from je crois, I believe, je crus, I believed. See the verb croître, page 129.


each other. But in all other cases entre does not suffer elision, as may be seen in the following examples: Entre eux, between them; entre elles, between them (fem.); entre autres, among others; entre onze heures et midi, between eleven o'clock and noon. Presque, almost, loses its final e only in presqu'île, peninsula. We say presque usé, almost worn out; presque achevé, almost finished. The e of lorsque, when; puisque, since, and quoique, although, suffers elision before il, elle, ils, elles, un, une, a or an; on, any one: lorsqu'on vous appellera, when they call you; puisqu'ils le veulent, since they will have it so; quoiqu'il soit pauvre, although he is poor. We write without elision : Lorsque Alexandre pénétra dans les Indes, when Alexander invaded India. Puisque aider les malheureux est un devoir, as it is a duty to help the unfortunate. Quoique amis, although friends. Quoique invisible Dieu nous voit, although invisible God sees us. The e final of quelque, some, suffers elision only before un, une; quelqu'un, quelqu'une, some one. We write : Quelque historien en aurait parlé, some historian would have mentioned it. Adressez-vous à quelque autre personne, apply to some one else. Quelque adroitement qu'il s'y prenne, however dexterously he may set about it.

The elision of e occurs also in the word grande placed before a few substantives feminine, beginning with a consonant, such as grand'mère, grandmother; grand'tante, great aunt, etc.

12. The cedilla, la cédille ($), placed under c gives that letter the sound of s before a, o,u; as leçon, lesson; il effaça, he effaced; façon, fashion ; reçu, received.

13. The diæresis, le tréma (**), denotes that the vowel over which it is placed is to be pronounced distinctly from the vowel preceding or following it; as naïf, candid; je haïs, I hated; païen, pagan; baïonnette.

14. The hyphen, le tiret or trait d'union (-), connects together two or more words :

It is used : 1. Between a verb and the pronouns je, moi, nous, tu, toi, vous, il, ils, elles, le, la, les, lui, leur, y, en, ce, on, whenever those pronouns are used as nominatives to or are governed by that verb; as ai-je ? have I ? parle-moi, speak to me; donnez-le-lui, give it to him. But if any of these pronouns are governed by a verb which follows them, the hyphen is not used; as, va lui parler, go and speak to him; faites-moi lui parler, make me speak to him. 2. Between words so joined that they are collectively considered as one only; as, arc-en-ciel, rainbow ; c'est-à-dire, that is to say, etc. Also to connect très, very, with the word which follows it; as, très-vrai, very true. Même, self, is also connected by a hyphen with the personal pronoun which precedes it, as lui-même, himself; moi-même, myself;

nous-mêmes, ourselves. The hyphen is used also before or after the words ci, here, and là, there, accompanying a substantive, a pronoun, a preposition or an adverb with which they are immediately connected, celui-ci, this one; cet homme-ci, this man ; ci-dessus, above; -haut, up there, etc. 3. The hyphen is used between the numerals from dix-sept, seventeen, to quatre-vingt-dix-neuf, ninety, inclusively; except when et is placed between the numbers, as in vingt et un, twentyone; trente et un, thirty-one, etc.; soixante et onze, seventy-one, etc.

15. The signs of punctuation are : La virgule ( , ) the comma. Les points de suspension (.....) the Le point et virgule ( 3 ) the semicolon. notes of suspension. Les deux points (3) the colon. La parenthèse ( ) the parenthesis. Le point (•) the full stop or period. Les guillemets(") the inverted Le point d'interrogation (?) the note of interrogation.

the brace. Le point d'exclamation (!) the note

of exclamation.



VOWEL SOUNDS. 16. The vowel sounds, or simple emissions of the voice, are represented by one or more vowels : A, À, A, E, EU, EÛ, É, è, Ê, AI, AIE, EAI, EI, I, y, i, o, Ô, AU,

EAU, OU, U, û.

A, À, A.


Position of the mouth for the sound of a as in la, the; ma, my; ta, thy; ami, friend; Paris.

The wood-cut represents the vertical section of a mouth ; the figures 1 and 2 indicate the arch of the palate; 3 and 4 the length of the tongue; 5 its base ; 6 and 7 the lips, and the

capital letter the place 3

where the vowel resounds.

The a is either short, as in the above examples la, ma, ta, ami, Paris;intermediate, as in la pronoun, prenez-la, take it; çà, hither; or long (a ouvert, broad or open), as in pâte, dough ; pâtre, shepherd. The a interme

diate requires an opening of the mouth greater than the opening represented in the wood-cut for the sound of the a short, and the long a requires an opening still greater. (See the lineal diagram page 8).


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