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From Latin to Modern French: on diachronic changes and synchronic Variations

Abstract : The goal of this paper is to give a brief summary of the main phonetic transformations from Latin to Modern French, and by doing so, to exemplify the leading role of the word stress and left boundary may play in sound changes. Most of the vowels in unstressed, non initial syllables were suppressed (“a” was transformed into mute e ('bona > bonne [bOn´] 'good'1). creating a large number of clusters and word final coda consonants. The disappearance of almost every first consonant member in non-word initial clusters (except /r/ and combination with /r/ and /l/), the dropping of intervocalic consonants, such as /d/ and /t/, the vocalisation of /g/, /k/ and /l/ in coda position, creates a large number of hiatus, which were then reduced to a single vowel (vita > vie [vi] 'life'). After monophthongization of the Latin diphthongs and several periods of diphtongization of the stressed syllables, all diphthongs and triphthongs were monophthongized. These phenomena lead to a drastic reduction of the phonetic length of the words. In spontaneous Modern French, the extension of the basic prosodic unit from the word to the sense group, the complete dropping of mute e (from “a”) and the transformation of [e] into mute e create new conditions where the 'old' reduction rules can again apply. All these drastic reductions create a very large number of homophonic (short) words. The double accentuation system of Modern French may to be inherited from its past: the final, syntactic stress from Latin, and the initial, emphatic stress from its Celtic and Germanic influences.
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Jacqueline Vaissière. From Latin to Modern French: on diachronic changes and synchronic Variations. AIPUK, Arbetisberitche, Institut für Phonetik und digitale Sprachverarbeitung, Universität Kiel, 1996, pp.61-74. ⟨halshs-00365006⟩

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