Breton accent, anyone?
March 12, 2006 5:07 PM   Subscribe

French speakers: can anyone characterize the Breton (Brittany, not Cape Breton) accent for me?

Specifically, I'm looking for a description of the regional variations in French as spoken by Bretons (not information about the Breton language itself). In other words, how would you describe a stereotypical Breton accent? The usual "listen to accent/dialect X" sites aren't helping much with this one; I've found a few sound files of Bretons speaking French, but since my own French is quite poor, it's difficult for me to hear the difference.
posted by blissbat to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I consulted with my linguistically gifted francophone wife on this, and she says, "The Breton accent isn't that big a deal, but it can be similar to Quebecois french in some ways."
posted by mikel at 5:11 PM on March 12, 2006

I'm not going to be any help with your actual question, but if I may take a moment to help (I hope) clarify what you're looking for: Are you hoping for descriptors like "nasal," "has a characteristically Scottish-sounding R," "flat vowels," "like talking with a mouth full of marbles," that kind of thing?
posted by redfoxtail at 6:18 PM on March 12, 2006

You could point us to those files and see what we make of them?
posted by metaculpa at 7:10 PM on March 12, 2006

Response by poster: Mikel, thanks, that gives me a start!

Redfoxtail, I could certainly use comparisons to other accents/dialects and descriptions like "nasal" or "slurred consonants," but I can also use more technical descriptions. I'm no linguist, but my international phonetic alphabet's pretty good and I can hang with glottal stops and velar fricatives if someone can sling the jargon.

Metaculpa, I found some short recordings of Bretons here.

And thank you, all.
posted by blissbat at 7:19 PM on March 12, 2006

Best answer: This site looks pretty thorough...
posted by creeky at 3:35 AM on March 13, 2006

Best answer: Breton people in general don't have a particularly noticeable accent anymore, if they ever had any. The link creeky posted is of old, rural people talking, and their accent shares a lot with farmers' of other regions. From these, what's characteristic compared to standard French:

- 'r' is alternately much more rolling than usual, or nearly unspoken (like in 'faire', 'pourtant')
- wet vowels (aille, ille) are slightly more open and pointy, shortened in duration
- 'e' and 'o' sounds ('feu', 'bonne'), are more closed
- 'on', 'oin', and '(a)in' nasal sounds are more open, the final 'n' perceptible, 'an' is more closed and dull

There's also a slightly singing quality to it, some vowels inflected with a rise-and-fall tonality, some words rising in pitch towards the end, a bit like the southern French accent, while French itself is generally flat-toned.

(languagehat will probably laugh hard at my phoneme descriptions)
posted by Spanner Nic at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

No, actually your descriptions are pretty clear, except for the second (I have no idea what "wet" or "pointy" mean). What gets me in amateur descriptions of sounds is "flat" -- I never know what it's supposed to mean.
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on March 13, 2006

I second what Spanner said.

In Morbihan, the old people would spell the "W" as "Dvje" (At least in the country side of .Pays vannetais). In Finistere, that "W" will be spelled very clearly. But these differencies tend to

The particular use of tonic accents is easily noticeable when my cousins from "Pays bigouden" (Finistere) are speaking, and they are below 30. :)
"More singing" is the best way I can describe it... (Sorry, I'm no linguist either)
posted by Bio11 at 9:23 AM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you very much. Most helpful.
posted by blissbat at 4:22 PM on March 13, 2006

As a little follow up :
A was listening to the audio files you provided. Among the first half, here are the one I'd pick as the most representative (sea shore or country side, north and south, unsorted).

Bernard, 53, farmer from Binic
Briec, 32, fisherman from Plou├ęzec
Daniel, 41, fisherman from Loguivy
Jean, 20, agricultural student from Paimpol
posted by Bio11 at 6:59 PM on March 13, 2006

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