Affective Accent

C'est ma-gni-fique! Accent affectif
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Accent affectif

In English, you can emphasize an important word or syllable by pronouncing it more loudly, but that’s not the case in French, which always wants to maintain its musical rhythm.

Instead of word stress, French speakers highlight the important word with pauses or by elongating certain sounds. The three different options are collectively known as the affective accent.

Pause between syllables

The most common affective accent is pronounced with a short pause between each syllable.

Sound file IPA LF notation  
C’était ma | gni | fique ! [se te ma | ɲi fik] [say tay mah | nyee | feek] It was magnificent!  
For | mi | dable ! [fɔʀ | mi | dabl] [fuhr | mee | dahbl] Great!
Im | po | ssible ! [ɛ̃ | pɔ | sibl] [eh(n) | puh | seebl] Impossible!

Pause before the word

 Note that you can’t do this if the word is subject to enchaînement or a required liaison.

Sound file IPA LF notation  
C’est | incroyable ! [se | ɛ̃ kʀwa jabl] [say | eh(n) krwah yahbl] That’s incredible!
C’était | magnifique ! [se te | ma ɲi fik] [say tay | mah nyee feek] It was magnificent!
Quelle idée | extraordinaire ! [kɛ li de | ɛk stʀa ɔʀ di nɛʀ] [keh lee day | ehk strah uhr dee nehr] What an extraordinary idea!
Vous êtes | géniaux ! [vu zɛt | ʒe ɲo] [vu zeht | zhay nyoh] You are great!

Elongate a consonant sound

 Note that this sound may be created by enchaînement or a liaison.

Sound file IPA LF notation  
C’est formidable ! [se ffɔʀ mi dabl] [say ffuhr mee dabl] That’s great!
C’est incroyable !
C’est incroyable !  
[se ttɛ̃ kʀwa jabl]
[se tɛ̃ kkʀʀwa jabl]
[say tteh(n) krwah yabl]
[say teh(n) kkrrwah yabl]
That’s incredible!
Quel idiot !
Quel idiot !
[kɛ lli djo]
[kɛ li ddjo]
[keh lli dyoh]
[keh li ddyoh]
What an idiot!

 There’s also a grammatical option for emphasizing an important word: the tonic accent.

 Related lessons

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French affective accent

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