This course is designed to provide students with a foundation in articulatory and descriptive phonetics and an introduction to French phonology. Students will also learn techniques for improving their own pronunciation or for their use in teaching French to others. The course begins with an introduction to the physiology of the vocal tract. We will then examine the physiological characteristics of individual sounds (consonants, vowels, and semi-consonants), the relationship between the meaningful sounds of French and their orthographic representations, the rules governing pronunciation of 'universal' French, and the most salient features in the pronunciation of selected regional varieties of French from within France and from other parts of the francophone world. Much of the focus of the course will be on rules governing syllabification, intonation, liaison, and deletion or retention of the 'mute e'. Students will have opportunities to apply theory to practice in class, but most oral production practice will be assigned as independent and regular work to be done with audio recordings outside of class.
Homework for each class consists of reading theory, writing phonetic transcriptions using the International Phonetic Alphabet, analyzing phonological problem sets, and oral practice using recordings on the class CTools site. Written homework, tests, and a final written final exam will evaluate students' ability to recognize and describe phonological and orthographic patterns, their understanding of theory, and use the phonetic alphabet. Participation, 1-2 oral quizzes, recitation of a poem, and the final oral exam will be used to evaluate proficiency in pronunciation. Some students may elect or may be asked to carry out a research project in addition to or instead of the practical pronunciation component of the course.
Students should note that this is not a conversation course nor is it a course that will focus on the development of oral proficiency in French. Rather, it is an introduction to one aspect of linguistics — phonetics — applied to the description and production of French sounds, their representation in spelling and in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and the contexts in which they occur or alternate with other sounds. The course requires attention to details, especially in the transcription system, in recognition of patterns, and in pronunciation. Typically, students who enjoy this class and do well are detail-oriented and comfortable with the type of thinking that people often associate with logic, math, or science.
FRENCH 333 is taught entirely in French.
Textbook for the course: Dansereau, Diane. Savoir dire. Cours de phonétique et de prononciation. 2nd edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.