Assimilation - French Pronunciation

Changes in French consonant sounds due to assimilation

Assimilation is a pronunciation phenomenon which causes consonant sounds to change according to the sounds that surround them. More specifically, assimilation occurs when voiced and unvoiced sounds are combined. Because it can be difficult to pronounce voiced and unvoiced sounds together, one or the other is assimilated: either a normally voiced consonant becomes unvoiced or a normally unvoiced consonant becomes voiced.

Voicing - La Sonorité

Voiced sounds (les sons sonores) occur when the vocal cords vibrate, while unvoiced consonants (les consonnes sourdes) are pronounced without vibrating the vocal cords. To understand the difference, place your hand on your Adam's apple and say D and T. You should feel your vocal cords vibrate with the first sound but not the second.

The voiced French consonants and sounds are B, D, G, J, L, M, N, R, V, Z, and all vowels.

The unvoiced French consonant sounds are CH, F, K, P, S, and T.

All unvoiced consonants have a voiced equivalent; i.e., the pairs are pronounced in the same place in the mouth/throat but the first is unvoiced while the second is voiced:

  • CH - J
    F - V
    K - G
    P - B
    S - Z
    T - D

is pronounced [seu go(n)d] rather than [seu ko(n)d].