A Short Course in Reading French
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A Short Course in Reading French

Celia Brickman

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eBook - ePub

A Short Course in Reading French

Celia Brickman

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About This Book

This textbook teaches the basics of French grammar, reinforcing its lessons with exercises and key practice translations. A systematic guide, the volume is a critical companion for university-level students learning to read and translate written French into English; for graduate scholars learning to do research in French or prepping for proficiency exams; and for any interested readers who want to improve their facility with the French language. In addition, A Short Course in Reading French exposes readers to a broad range of French texts from the humanities and social sciences, including writings by distinguished francophone authors from around the world.

The book begins with French pronunciation and cognates and moves through nouns, articles, and prepositions; verbs, adjectives, and adverbs; a graduated presentation of all the indicative and subjunctive tenses; object, relative, and other pronouns; the passive voice; common idiomatic constructions; and other fundamental building blocks of the French language. Chapters contain translation passages from such authors as Pascal, Montesquieu, Proust, Sartre, Bourdieu, Senghor, Césaire, de Certeau, de Beauvoir, Barthes, and Kristeva. Drawn from more than two decades of experience teaching French to students from academic and nonacademic backgrounds, Celia Brickman's clear, accessible, and time-tested format enables even beginners to develop a sophisticated grasp of the language and become adept readers of French.

There is an answer key for translation exercises and for non-copyrighted translation passages available to professors and teachers who have assigned this title in a class. Please provide your name, title, institution, and number of students in the course in an email to [email protected].

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All nouns in French are gendered. As in all Romance languages—that is, all languages derived from Latin—all nouns are either masculine or feminine. (In English our nouns have no grammatical gender.) The gender of nouns is a grammatical quality that in most instances has no relationship to the meaning of the word. Occasionally, some noun endings indicate the gender of the noun: Those that end in -ion or -ie are usually feminine, whereas those that end in -ment, -eur, and -ien tend to be masculine.
All words in French that modify nouns—all adjectives—agree in number and gender with the nouns that they modify. This is called the principle of agreement. (As we will see later on, in some tenses, certain verb forms agree with nouns as well.) This means that any adjective that modifies a masculine noun must be masculine in form, and any adjective that modifies a feminine noun must be feminine in form. If a noun is plural, the adjective must be plural in form, as well as masculine or feminine, according to the noun it modifies.
Articles, both definite and indefinite, are a subgroup of adjectives and therefore agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify. In English, we have only one definite article: the. In French, however, the definite article varies according to the grammatical gender of the noun (masculine or feminine) and according to its number (singular or plural):
masculine singular definite article:
feminine singular definite article:
alternative singular definite article:
masculine and/or feminine plural definite article:
Definite articles always precede the noun they modify:
In speaking, we usually can hear where one word ends and the other begins by the enunciation of the consonant that ends the first word, or of the consonant that begins the second word. When one word ends with a vowel and the next word begins with a vowel, we are forced to indicate where one word ends and the other begins by closing the glottis, the space the between the vocal cords in the throat, ever so slightly (try to say “zoo owner” or “bee eater”). This action is called a glottal stop. The French language dislikes the glottal stop, and goes to great lengths to avoid it. Therefore, when a definite article—le or la—is followed by a noun that begins with a vowel, an alteration of the article has been devised in order to avoid the glottal stop that would otherwise occur. This altered, alternative definite article is the letter l followed by an apostrophe, which replaces the le or la when the following word begins with a vowel: Therefore,
Since the h in French is silent (i.e., it is not aspirated) when it begins a word, a word beginning with h sounds as though, and is treated as though, it begins with its second letter, the vowel following the h. The abbreviated article l’ will be used as the definite article for these words as well. Therefore,
However, as with almost all grammatical rules in French, ther...

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