Atelier de Phonologie
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The phonological status of the French schwa has been a matter of debate for decades. In this talk I take up this issue again, considering its definition, its surface realization, its representation, and its relationship to /œ/ and /ø/. I adopt a comparative perspective between different varieties of French, combining experimental and corpus data. I argue in particular that schwa is absent from the phonemic vowel inventory of northern varieties of French. While the epenthetic status of morpheme-final schwa is now largely accepted in these varieties, I also argue that morpheme-internal schwa should not be treated as distinct from /œ/ and/or /ø/ (depending on the variety), the phonetic differences observed between ‘schwa’ and [œ] and/or [ø] being predictable from the prosodic context, morphology and analogy. In addition, I consider the specific behavior of final schwa in Quebec French, which is largely restricted to a small class of words, unlike in other northern varieties of French.