Comment vous appelez-vouff?
February 18, 2021 2:41 AM   Subscribe

At about 17s in this video, the girl seems to pronounce 'comment vous appelez-vous' as 'comment vous appelez-vouphh'. I've noticed this type of thing with other words in French -- Is there a name for this phenomenon and is there anything I can read to learn more about it?
posted by iamsuper to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think that's really just the wind in the microphone, in real life, no french person actually pronounces vouphh. It could be that it's amplified in your example because it's taken outdoors with more wind. But it's also partly just the force of the air coming out of her mouth?
posted by PardonMyFrench at 4:41 AM on February 18

No, this is a real thing! It’s common in very Parisian accents for example. It’s called vowel devoicing and there’s a fantastic thread about it here with further links.

Japanese also has vowel devoicing, as in ‘desu’ and ‘masu’.
posted by lokta at 4:48 AM on February 18 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: (You're right, I think it's amplified here, but I have noticed people doing it in real life -- forcefully expelling air at the end of vowel sounds making what sounds a bit like an English H sound. Oui-hh, mardi-hh. I guess the type of info I'm looking for is: is it seen as positive/negative? Is it recent? Is it regional? Any sociolinguistic factors?)

(On edit - yes, similar to lokta's reply. Thanks very much!)
posted by iamsuper at 4:49 AM on February 18

This may be similar to shifts that are occurring in English (and that did occur in the past, such as the "Valley Girl" pattern). Listen to how younger speakers now use a glottal transition between the two syllables in words like "mountain." That has only arisen in the last five years or so.
posted by yclipse at 5:18 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

Yes, lokta has it. It is completely a Parisian thing, at least in my experience as a French speaker from Canada (on edit - thinking about it a bit more it does exist in Quebec French I guess, usually in the cities and with younger people, but I rarely hear it with non-Quebec French). It used to trip me up as I was never sure if it was a genuine accent or some kind of strange affectation. I sort of decided pour quoi pas les deux.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:21 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]

It's not something I notice myself doing as a native speaker (Quebec French), but I do hear it in Euro-French speakers and it strikes me as an affectation/emphasis thing. In Quebec, there's another version of that where we stick a -euh kind of sound at the end vowel-ending words that end a sentence, that's definitely meant as emphasis "J'ai dis OUI-euh!" like there's something about the soft i at the end of "oui" that's not strong enough.
posted by Freyja at 8:05 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, the champagne Veuve Cliquot is pronounced Voof Klee-koh.
posted by serendipityrules at 11:52 AM on February 18

For what it's worth, in the ensuing dialogue the same woman asks several more questions ending with "...-vous?" and uses the same distinctive pronunciation each time, so it is not the wind.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:49 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

Definitely a thing. You'll often hear it with plus when the s is silent. Like in moi non plus. Then when you ask them, hey why are you making a sound like a wind tunnel?, they have no clue what you're talking about.
posted by mono blanco at 7:59 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

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