French DJS: when to write E in initial “re”?


I thought that initial RE was shortened to R if it is a prefix that doesn’t belong to the root of the word (as in refaire, reposer, etc.).

But in my French DJS manual, I notice that recette is written R-S-E-T, whereas renommé is written R-E-N-O-M-E.

Yet in recette, “re” is part of the root and is not a prefix, while it can be considered a prefix in renommé… so I’m not clear about how to decide whether to include the E or not.



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  1. Hello, Aymeric! Long time no hear.
    In the Sénécal manual, it is written this way: “La voyelle ‘e’, dans la syllabe ‘re’, est omise seulement lorsqu’elle est suivie d’un signe descendant”. Which is the case with “s” and not with “n”…
    But I often wonder too, anyway.

    1. Exactly. The rule for re- in French (Simplified and later) is that the e is always omitted before a descending stroke (irrespective of the pronunciation). That's why the first e in recette is omitted (right s is a descending stroke), but it is written in renommé. So, for example, you would never write the first e in refaire, révision, répartition, rebâtir, rechanger, or rejoindre. You also omit the e if the following stroke is the prefix em- or en- (and not followed by a vowel), as in remplacer, rembourser, rencontrer, etc.

      However, be careful with this rule, because the e in rêve and derivatives (rêver, rêveur) is written. Also, the word rendre is spelled out with the a circle (instead of written as r-nd-r).

        1. Nothing really wrong if you want to adopt it. This is one of the remnants of the omission of ow rule in English. In English, the word "round" was written as r-nd up to and including Simplified Gregg. In English DJS, the ow was spelled out and the word was written in full. For that reason, if you wanted to avoid confusion with the English word, they inserted the a in the French Anniversary and in the French Simplified outlines. But since there is no other word in French with the r-nd blend (or r-nd blend-r) outline, I think you are safe. If you want to do that, you should extend the same rule to prendre, comprendre, apprendre, etc. to be consistent. The only other words I can think would cause confusion with would be emprunteur (from emprunter), or maybe empreindre (but here you insert an e circle).

  2. I'm going to stick my neck out and hazard a guess as to why the rule is what it is.

    An r- followed by a counterclockwise down-stroke makes an acute angle, and Gregg shorthand favors acute angles.

    If the down-stroke is clockwise, there is not really an acute angle, but including the -e- is somewhat awkward, and especially so if the down-stroke is s. A roughly right angle or a curved joining is not problematic in this instance.

    On the other hand, an r followed by a horizontal or up-stroke makes an oblique angle, and Gregg shorthand is designed to avoid oblique angles when possible. Including the -e- avoids the oblique angle.

    So here's a question, given that I'm ignorant of French Gregg. What happens in words like relier, where the l is horizontal but begins with a counterclockwise down-stroke? Is the -e- included or not?

    1. It is written in relier.

      As far as I can tell, the re- rule first appeared in the 1902 Revised Edition of the manual, and it simply read: "While the omission of vowels in general is left to a very large extent to the judgment of the writer, the following suggestions will be of assistance: (a) The vowel may be omitted in dis and mis; also in be, de and re when a better outline is obtained by doing so." The rule was restated more clearly in the 1916 New and Revised Edition as "The vowel is omitted in the prefixes be, de, re, dis, mis. The vowel is retained when re precedes the forward characters, K, G, R, L, N, M, T, D." In the Anniversary edition, the rule was rewritten as "The vowel is omitted in the syllables be, de, re, dis, and mis. The vowel in re is omitted only before a downward character." This last version is the way it was translated in the Sénécal manual, since his version is based on Anniversary Gregg.

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