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"Ch" in French, et al Login/Join
 
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Picture of bethree5
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Wow, nobody ever reads at this forum -- so this will be a test. [Testing, testing, 1,2,3...]

I am just finishing up another Fr-lang mystery (this one a lengthy treatise on 3 murders that occurred in Finisterre, the part of Bretagne that sticks out into Atlantic -- lots of context about oceanography, pollution, fish trade, dolphins). I do it to help me stay fluent (& because I love mysteries). I actually only have 1 little tutee-family in French, but it was my major (so easier to read, & need to keep up for lack of practice). All of my other work is PreK Span -- & I would love to read more Spanish, but their lit is very short on good mysteries, so I just keep reading along in Cien Años de Soledad - Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude," which I love.

Anyhoo. I find that even tho I can read Fr faster than I can speak it, I am slowed by words I'm embarrassed to admit I'm not sure how to pronounce. So I finally forced myself to stop & read up on "ch." because I know that even tho the vast majority of "ch"-words in French are pronounced like "sh" in Eng, I also know there are some very common words where "ch" is pronounced like "k." [e.g., quite sure that "orchestre" & "technique" are pronounced w/a k... but what about "chaos"?]

Eureka! What I learned is that where the "ch" is borrowed into French from a Greek word, it's pronounced "k" in Fr as in Gr. (Grr, all these yrs I've been pronouncing "chaos" "shah -o" instead of "kah-o"!). But this helps a lot. Even tho I don't know Gr, I'm fairly up on Gr word roots as they relate to Eng.


Next challenge - & it's a big one: when do you elide the "s" or "t" word-ending to the next word that begins w/ vowel? I find myself auto-correcting my studs on this most of the time, but I think there's a good 25% I'm not sure of.


And after that -- rare situations, but nagging: which are the Fr words where final "s" is pronounced??
 
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Originally posted by bethree5:

Eureka! What I learned is that where the "ch" is borrowed into French from a Greek word, it's pronounced "k" in Fr


Not always; machine and schisme have /ʃ/. I was going to say that if it is /k/ in English it is /k/ in French but obviously it is not that simple.

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Love that you're posting here, Bethree, but French is not my forte. When I was in France, Shu was my interpreter. Wink
 
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Was X always pronounced one way in Greek? Like French, Russian borrowed chaos from Greek (xaoc in Russian) and it's pronounced "ha-ose."
 
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In Ancient Greek χ probably represented /kʰ/ a velar aspirated stop that sounded like the first consonant in English "can". In modern Greek it is /x/ a velar fricative. I believe Russian also has a velar fricative that is spelled х.

Listen to Greek fricatives

Edit: fixed the IPA

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Remember Museamuse? We could use her! Besides, she was fun! Alas, so many have left.
 
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Got some input from a French thread discussing this.

Several theories, each w/plenty of examples & some exceptions.

1. The usual point, that most technical words borrowed from Greek via Latin spell the Greek X "ch" in French but retain the "k" sound from Greek & Latin.

2. Technical words borrowed from Greek/ Latin by Old or Middle French (like "chimie" [chemistry] -- or "machine" first seen in Fr doct 14thc --) were "Frenchified" [k became sh]; in recent centuries such borrowings nearly always retain the k sound, especially for rarely-used words of art.

3. A further refinement: when followed by i or y (e.g. in the Gr letter X, or 'khi' itself), the k sound is palatalized & most often rendered as sh in French. This theory says never mind "psychiatriste" because 'i' is a half-vowel there; think 'Achille,' 'psychique,' 'chimère,' -- ' schisme ' -- et al.

Another commenter clarifies: Greek X (or khi) is not pronounced with k but rather with that hissy almost gutteral sound you hear in Spanish j, German ch, Arabic kh [see goofy above for correct terminology Wink ] - which he claims usually becomes soft ch in Fr (i.e. our sh). But obviously tons of exceptions, perhaps mostly categorized as technical words borrowed since 1700 or so).
 
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One person says it is due to the time the word was borrowed and whether or not it was a scholarly word. I think this is true. French /k/ had become /ʃ/ in certain conditions by about 1300. So capitulum became chapitre, canis became chien, and chimaera with /k/ became chimère with /ʃ/. This happened to all words unless scholars pronounced a Greek-borrowed word differently in an attempt to preserve its Greekness.

My guess is that psychiatre has /k/ because it was adapted from Greek at a later time, or because it was scholarly, or both.

I think the modern Greek pronunciation of χ as a velar fricative is irrelevant to French.

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quote:
Originally posted by goofy:
chimaera with /k/ became chimère with /ʃ/.


That's not right. /k/ became /s/ before /i/ and /e/, so ceresia became cerise and cīsellum became ciseau. I don't know why chimère and chimie have /ʃ/ instead of /s/.
 
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Originally posted by goofy:
I think the modern Greek pronunciation of χ as a velar fricative is irrelevant to French.
Thanks for all that good input, goofy.

How do we know that the ancient Greeks pronounced the X as a hard k rather than velar fricative?
 
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Originally posted by bethree5:

How do we know that the ancient Greeks pronounced the X as a hard k rather than velar fricative?


Because of commentary on pronunciation that was written at the time. The sounds spelled θ φ χ were described as being aspirated stops.

And because of how borrowed words were spelled in other languages, and based on comparison with related languages.

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Thanks!
 
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