French pronunciation questions

We’re preparing for three performances next week of *La damnation de Faust * by Berlioz. There’s still some disagreement among choristers about how certain passages should be pronounced:

  1. Tous tombaient à la file. Is the *s * at the end of *Tous * pronounced?

  2. Hélas! Is the *s * pronounced?

  3. Quand ma mère me mit au monde, j’eus un ivrogne pour parain. Is there liaison between *mit * and au?

In the second one, the “s” is not pronounced. In general, only C, R, F, L (be CaReFL) are pronounced. As with all languages, there are exceptions. This isn’t one of them :).

Well, I do pronounce the ‘s’ in “hélas”. I’ve never heard it pronounced it otherwise, and I’m a native French speaker.

My answer would be “yes” to all three questions.

Yeah, I’ve always heard the s in hélas pronounced, and my Micro Robert backs me up. (The h, of course, is silent.)

Not a native speaker, but studied French all my life and 4 years living in France.

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) No, but I’m not sure why. I never quite got the rules for liaisons - I believe it’s pretty arbitrary when you do and when you don’t.

I couldn’t tell the rule for liaisons either: to me it’s natural, but then again it’s my native language. I guess I could check in a grammar, but in this case, I think that a ‘t’ at the end of a word always links to a vowel at the beginning of the following one. For this sentence, making the liaison seems more natural to me, but I probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t do it, and most other people wouldn’t either.

There are rules for liasons… I’ve got a page of them (typewritten) dans mon livre de français… but I’m sharing that book with a friend, and he has it right now (for the first time this semester_.

Hm, strange. I guess these hick teachers know nothing!

Good to learn, though.

Thanks to everyone for the replies so far. My own inclination is to agree with **severus ** and say “yes” to all three questions, but there are others in the choir who disagree. Given the tempo at which we sing some of these passages it probably won’t make much difference anyway.

Here is a guide on liaisons. The third example in the original post falls under section VI of optional liaisons.

Maybe, but you have to consider that this third sentence is in itself “very high register” due to the tense used and the wording. So, if it’s ever pronounced (probably read aloud, since such a sentence is very unlikely to find its way in an ordinary conversation) it will probably be pronounced with the liason.

Sorry, I didn’t pay attention to the fact the context (a choir) was provided by the OP.

I thought much the same clairobscur. The use of the *passé simple * of *avoir * suggested a “high register” approach to me. The problem is that when we sing the “Quand ma mère…” line we are acting the role of a drunken men’s chorus in a tavern somewhere in Leipzig. Other choristers are arguing that if we were *really * drunken men we wouldn’t worry too much about the liaison.

  1. Yes
  2. Absolutely
  3. The use of the *passé simple * (preterit) is an indication that the level of French of higher, not colloquial, and the liaison is a must.
    (francophone here, with special interest in languages and “good” French)

If you were really drunken men, you’d probably pronounce it :
Quand…quand ch’uis né, mon pote, ben mon parrain c’était un…un putain d’iv…d’ivrogne!!!


Perhaps that’s what Charles Dutoit will suggest to us tonight when we have our first rehearsal with him. :slight_smile: