Quebec French nasal vowels.

Larry Trask larryt at
Tue Aug 24 13:34:17 UTC 1999

On Sat, 21 Aug 1999 s455152 at wrote:

[somebody else]

>> As Larry Trask mentioned, this is original and authentic (but archaeic)
>> French pronunciation that got lost by convergence elsewhere.

> This is unbelievable. Arguing from authority is the weakest argument
> of all, and since the authority himself (Larry Trask) was open and
> honest enough to begin his posting on the subject by writing "I know
> nothing of Quebecois", I fail to see the purpose of quoting him on
> the subject. His comments on the dating of the en/an merger are
> quite correct, by the way --he certainly knows something of French.

Perhaps I might clarify this a bit.

It is true that I know nothing of Quebec French.  It is also true that I
know something of the history of European French, but I am hardly a
specialist here, and the observations I made in my earlier posting were
taken from standard reference sources in my office -- which I think I
identified.  I am certainly no authority here, but then I don't think
the anonymous person quoted above was really presenting me as an
authority: he was merely quoting me.

Now, what I said in my earlier posting was the following.  It is
reliably reported that the contrast between the vowels of <cent> and
<sans> still exists today in some varieties of European French, even
though the contrast has been gradually disappearing in French for
centuries.  Given the reports I saw that these vowels are distinguished
today in Quebec French, I *surmised* (this is the verb I used) that the
contrast had simply failed to be lost so far in Quebec, just as in
certain parts of France.  That's all.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

larryt at

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