by Clare Jones
Here is the second half of the spelling reforms in France which have caused such recent controversy despite it being old news. For the first five changes, please refer to last week’s blog and for more details in French look here.
- Words which have been borrowed from other languages will be made to conform to the normal rules for French words in the plural.
Previously: un match, des matches
Now: un match, des matchs
Previously: une miss (an English girl), des misses
Now: une miss, des miss
An accent will be added if this helps the reader to pronounce the word correctly –
Previously: un revolver
Now: un révolver
Notice that this doesn’t mean that the word is pronounced exactly as it would be in English; rather it has been modified to sound more natural to a French speaker and therefore to be more easily absorbed into the French language.
- Lots of words which used to be hyphenated will now be written as one word. These will include
- words which start with contr(e) and entr(e)
- words which start with extra, infra, intra and ultra
- words with scholarly elements such as hydro and socio
- onomatopoeic words such as tictac
- foreign words such as weekend
So ‘to go away for a weekend’ will now be partir en weekend.
In fact, dictionary writers are invited to extend the rules above to all hyphenated words so, for example, porte-monnaie (a purse) now becomes portemonnaie.
- Words which used to end in -olle, e.g. corolle (corolla – part of a flower) will now end in -ole to bring them into line with words such as bestiole (creature; creepy-crawly) but exceptions to the new rule include la folle (the mad woman), la colle (the glue) and la molle (the soft or spineless woman).
Also, verbs which formerly ended in -otter will now end in -oter with one T. Exceptions to this new spelling rule are the verbs botter (to boot) which comes from a noun – la botte (the boot) – and any other verbs which come from nouns with a double consonant. So we now have the lovely verb mangeoter (to eat without appetite; to pick at one’s food) which is now in line with another verb I rather like, neigeoter (to snow a little).
- The ninth new rule clears up an area which has caused many headaches to learners: the tréma (two dots) has either been moved or added so that it now sits over a letter which is pronounced separately from the letter before or after it.
Bye-bye to: aiguë (high-pitched – feminine adjective), ambiguë (ambiguous – feminine adjective), ambigüité (ambiguity) and also arguer (to argue).
Hello: aigüe, ambigüe, ambigüité and argüer.
There is also now a tréma in the word gageüre (challenge) –
C’est une véritable gageüre ! It’s a real challenge!
- The final rule concerns the verb laisser (to let /allow) when followed by an infinitive. Previously in the passé-composé, there would have had to be an agreement, e.g. elle s’est laissée maigrir (she let herself get thin), je les ai laissés partir (I let them leave). Now this construction follows the similar construction using faire followed by an infinitive, where the past participle is invariable: elle s’est laissé maigrir, je les ai laissé partir.
There are several anomalies which have also been regularized. Here are a few of them:
asseoir → assoir (to sit somebody down)
bonhomie → bonhommie (affability)
chariot → charriot (trolley)
combatif → combattif (ready to fight)
eczéma → exéma (eczema)
imbécillité → imbécilité (idiocy)
nénuphar → nénufar (waterlily)
oignon →ognon (onion)
pagaïe → pagaille (mess; chaos)
saccharine → saccarine (saccharine)
papeterie → papèterie (stationery; stationer’s)
leader → leadeur (leader)
allô → allo (hello – on the phone)
I hope I’ve managed to summarize well enough for you to follow the main ideas and that you don’t find the whole thing too much of une véritable gageüre and that it hasn’t made you feel too combattif /combattive ! If it’s all too much for you, go for a trip to the supermarket to take your mind off it, and fill your charriot with ognons ! Don’t forget to leave a comment below, please.
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