or, Those Diabolical Diacritics
One of the things I find most interesting about new languages is how different writing systems can be. While French uses the same 26-letter alphabet as English, it decorates half a dozen of them with diacritical marks, aka accents. The purpose of these accents varies - they may
affect pronunciation 🗣️
distinguish between words 〰️
serve as reminders of old spelling 🏛️
Whatever their purpose, French accents are required when writing and typing. Today's issue of Lawless French à fond takes an in-depth look at accents: what they mean, how to use them, and how to type them on any computer, tablet, or phone.
Table of Contents
If you've never given much thought to accents, start with this summary lesson.
Then explore these lessons to learn how each accent is used and what it means. Keep an eye out for the 🔎 "Accent on grammar" section that details how accents feature in various grammatical constructions.
Find out whether capital letters can and should be accented.
Words that have different meanings with and without accents.
The -e_er and -é_er verb patterns are all about accents.
Explanation of general rules on how pronunciation, spelling, and syllables determine where these accents are needed.
The etymology and meaning of the word circonflexe itself.
In 2016, the 1990 spelling reform was (finally?) fully applied to textbooks, which led to hyperbolic announcements about the death of the circumflex. Then ministre de l'Éducation nationale clearly explains in this video why that wasn't true.
Decide which accent is needed on 10 common words, then check the answer key for explanations. (Portail linguistique du Canada)
Questions about the purpose of accents, choosing the correct accent, and deciding where it goes. (Babbel)
Which spelling is correct - with or without accent? (Le Figaro)
Thirty-five questions, mostly about which accent is missing, plus a few about pronunciation. (HowStuffWorks)
No matter what operating system or device you're using, there is a(t least one) way to type accents. ⌨️
Windows: it depends.
International keyboard layout if you regularly need accents and / or use a laptop. It's quick to set up, easy to use, and free, I promise!
ALT codes - if it's really just once in a while on a desktop computer.
Practice listening and writing with these accent-themed texts provided by the Centre collégial de développement de matériel didactique.
Each PDF includes texts for two dictées, preceded by vocabulary exercises - though sadly no audio files, so you'll need to find a native speaker to recite them for you. Alternatively, you can just use these texts for reading practice.
There is an incredible museum in the south of France called Musée Champollion: Les Écritures du Monde. I cannot recommend it highly enough - I've visited twice and look forward to going again the next time I'm in the area (Figeac, Lot, Midi-Pyrénées).
Thanks for reading Lawless French à fond - see you in two weeks!
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