The ‘h’ in French: Is It Really “Silent”?

If you’ve taken some standard French classes, you may likely recall currently being taught that the h is not pronounced in French. So heure (“time, hour”) and Eure (the name of a French river and office) are pronounced identically. You ended up then possibly taught that a phrase starting with h behaves as while it started with a vowel so that, for illustration, “the time” is l’heure, not *la heure, just as “the h2o” is l’eau and not *la eau. And in trois heures (“a few several hours, 3 o’clock”), the s is pronounced before the following vowel, just as it would be in trois arbres (“a few trees”).

But it turns out that this isn’t really the whole tale. It is true that in typical French, the h is always “silent”. But in some terms, the h nevertheless represents a unique “aspect”: it counts as a consonant when deciding whether or not to pronounce the s (or other consonant) that arrives before it, and also when selecting no matter if to use le/la or l’ (or du/de la/d’).

So, how does this get the job done? Perfectly, the masculine text héros (“hero”) and hérisson (“hedgehog”) are examples of these specific terms. Wanting at them, you might have anticipated the French for “the hero” and “the hedgehog” to be *l’héros and *l’hérisson. But in these instances, the phrases behave as if they actually began with a consonant-even although the h is “silent”-and so French speakers say le héros and le hérisson. If you’ve read of the movie La Haine, you could have questioned why it is just not L’haine. Well, haine (“hatred”) is a single of these specific phrases!

Linguists get in touch with this phenomenon “aspirate h” or “h aspiré” (this misleading term is derived from the fact that, in the language’s background, the h was actually pronounced or “aspirated” in some of these text). Other prevalent illustrations with an “aspirate h” contain: la hache (“axe”), la haie (“hedge”), le hameau (“hamlet”), le hareng (“herring”), le hasard (“prospect, luck, destiny”), le homard (“lobster”), la honte (“disgrace”) along with huit (“8”), haut (“substantial, tall”). So in the expression en haut (“at the top rated, upstairs”), you you should not pronounce the n simply because haut has an “aspirate h“. (In dix-huit, as you are most likely knowledgeable, the x is pronounced: “di-z-(h)uit”.)

There are a number of other troubles with these phrases. Just one specific problems is that there is some variation from speaker to speaker as to which words and phrases are specified an “h aspiré”. So some speakers will say le haricot (“the bean”) though other people l’haricot some will say le Hollandais (“the Dutchman”) though other individuals l’Hollandais.

It also turns out that a so-named “aspirate h” phrase does not even have to be spelt with a letter h! The words onze and yaourt (“yoghurt”), and generally international phrases beginning with a vowel, all behave as although they started with an “aspirate h“, and so you say e.g. le onze septembre, le yaourt, and the s is not pronounced in le(s) onze personnes, le(s) yaourts (whereas discover that it is in les yeux). These specific situations are frequently words beginning with a “glide” or semivowel. They can be spelt with a ‘w’, ‘y’ or combination of what are historically classed as “vowel” letters. Other illustrations include le iambe, la ouate, le yoga, le western, le wiki…

We have specified a temporary overview in this article of what is basically fairly a complex spot of French pronunciation. If you are a relative rookie, it is worthwhile becoming conscious of this phenomenon with no finding bogged down. Sophisticated college students will have entertaining having to grips with the complexities…

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