Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Words: Loanwords, Part 2

Is this a Chevrolet? Maybe--but I don't care, since this isn't an automotive blog.
The important question for us today is: 'How do you pronounce Chevrolet?'
Last weekend we had a quick introduction to loanwords, so this past week I've been thinking about how common they really are in English. Today I want to focus on a few loanwords that originally come from French. The reason I'd like to call your attention to them is because my students often have problems pronouncing them. For example, in yesterday's class we talked about the word "bouquet," which is a word that means "a bunch of flowers," like a bride has in a wedding.

Notice the spelling of the word "bouquet," and that it ends in the letters "-E-T." A few other examples  of similar French loanwords are filet, buffet, bouquet. The interesting thing about these words is that when you pronounce them in English, the T at the end is silent. You can click on the words to go to the Merriam Webster dictionary to hear their pronunciation, but basically the "-et" is pronounced like the letter "A," so "filet" is pronounced "fill-A," and so on.

Now, note that not all words that end in "-et" are loanwords from French--think of words like "bet," "tweet," or "mallet"--so for non-French words, you'll probably pronounce the "T." But if you can recognize the French loanwords that end in "-et," you can use this pronunciation rule.

Knowing that, how would you pronounce the following common French loanwords in English?
(Click on any of the words for definition and to check your pronunciation):


Can you think of any more that follow this pattern?

Later we'll look at more loanwords, so check back soon. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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-Ryan