An introduction to French pronunciation

An introduction to French pronunciation. 2nd edn. By Glanville Price. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005. Pp. ix, 176. ISBN 9781405132558. $36.95.

Reviewed by Yves Laberge, Université Laval, Canada

In this second edition of a hard-to-find book from 1991, Glanville Price provides countless tips and advice for English-speaking learners of French. P identifies the typical problems English native speakers face when pronouncing French words. The twenty short chapters are all written in English.

This is not a book for beginners but rather for advanced learners of French who can use phonetic symbols to learn the rules of pronunciation and articulation. Every section highlights important considerations and notable exceptions, such as ‘The mute e’ (Ch. 11) and ‘Liaison’ (Ch. 19). Remarks are timely and often intercept possible questions—for example, the discussion of liaison provides examples of words that have no special liaison form (136). P does not reinvent French pronunciation; instead, he humbly relies on previous work and classic references such as Pierre Fouché’s Traité de prononciation française (Paris: Klincksieck, 1969). Unfortunately, no cassette, CD, or CD-ROM accompanies this short text.

Although P includes some examples of French-Canadian pronunciation and briefly mentions some Canadianisms, he does not refer to any books written by Québécois linguists: only Douglas Walker’s The pronunciation of Canadian French (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1984) is referenced. Perhaps P chose to rely solely on sources written in English.

A quite useful index of about 700 entries provides the page number where a specific French word is explained. Because the article le has countless references and explanations, it also has almost a dozen entries. Furthermore, a few difficult French words (e.g. moyen ‘means’) as well as some famous city names such as Rome are also studied. The most interesting examples are often for the many words that are spelled identically in both English and French but are pronounced in different ways (e.g. nuance).

Despite its scholarly tone, this volume remains a useful and inexpensive book for Anglophones who need assistance with the rules of French pronunciation. Linguists and teachers of French will appreciate its precision and conciseness.