Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Le Tréma

Have you ever wondered what you call two dots above a letter? In German you probably know that we are talking about an umlaut, but in French it is called le tréma. In German the umlaut changes pronunciation. In French le tréma also changes pronunciation but in a very distinct way. It means that the vowel with le tréma is pronounced distinctly from the letter that precedes it.

What better explanation can there be than this one? Le tréma est un signe que l'on place au-dessus des voyelles e, i, u, pour indiquer que la voyelle qui les précède immédiatement doit être prononcée séparément. If you are not sure of the full translation then look back at the first paragraph.

Examples will make this easier to understand. Do you drive a Citroën? If you have just pronounced it in the English way with two syllables then in French you have just said citron which means lemon. We do use le tréma occasionally in English, usually with words borrowed from another language. One such word is Noël. Now you know that le tréma goes on the second vowel because it separates it from the first vowel, and you can also relate the correct pronunciation with the way we say the word Noël in English. Noël Noël Noël Noël born is the King of Israel. You now know how to pronounce words contaning un tréma.

A bientôt

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