La notion d'unité sonore dans les grammaires françaises des 17ème et 18ème siècles

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The object of this article is to present one aspect of the development of the theory of sounds during the 17th and 18th centuries, after a discussion of the hypotheses put forth by i) Sylvain Auroux, who believes that during this period, the letter played a regulating role analogous to that of the phoneme among modern linguists, and ii) Daniel Droixhe, who suggests that certain authors (such as those of the Port-Royal grammar) were guided by a “sense of the phoneme”. The important issue in this debate is the way in which the authors of this period conceived the units of sound in the language, their status, and the criteria for defining them. The article examines these questions using a corpus of texts from the 17th and 18th centuries, tackling three problems characteristic of phonetic descriptions during that time: the “discovery” of nasal vowels, that of semivowels, and the identification of the different values of the letter <i>e </i>in French.


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