Con-, Com-, Co prefixes


Going through a second reading of my French DJS manual, I’m as puzzled as I was during my first reading of the principles governing prefixes con-, com-, conn-, comm-.

The author presents the rule in three different paragraphs (160, 161, 162 for you Carlos) and distinguishes 3 cases:




Why does the author never simply say that syllables KO and nasalized KON are written with K alone? Is there a subtlety that escapes me here?


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  1. How about this instruction? Will it be clearer?

    "Les préfixes con-, com- sont ordinairement représentés par k seulement ; mais lorsque con-, com- sont suivis d'une voyelle ou de n, m, on représente ces préfixes par kn et km."

  2. Thank you Carlos, this phrasing is more concise, however, I think it still doesn’t beat mine, if mine is indeed (?!) accurate (les sons [ko] and [kõ] sont ordinairement représentés par k seulement). Could you confirm that it is? or did I miss something?

    As I write this, it comes to my mind that Canadian French nasalizes vowels very differently from French French, so I’m now wondering if this would explain why they chose not to talk about nasalization and felt they had to go for a more complication explanation instead?

    1. The rule is only for kon/kom as stated, not for ko in general. (For example, you write the o in coopération, coeur, etc.)

      The instruction was adopted from the English manual, and yes, it's a little wordy.

  3. Right, thanks Carlos, so I did get it wrong. So in phonetic terms :

    -[kõn] est représenté par k seulement,

    -[ko] est représenté par K lorsqu’il est suivi du son [n] ou [m]?

    I know you explained that Gregg relies to some extent on spelling, and after my second reading of the manual I now find it obvious (many rules are actually based on spelling indications rather than phonetic indications, I hadn’t really noticed that the first time around). I personally find it harder to refer to spelling (especially those double Ns/Ms) because they force me to ask myself how to spell the word before I can write it in shorthand, whereas "converting" words into phonetic values as I go along is something I do without having to pause and think at all.


    1. The nasal pronunciation (kɔ̃, whether spelled out com/con) is always k.

      For the open o pronunciation (kɔ) + m/n, you write k and the m/n following it, but no o.

      For the open o pronunciation (kɔ) + any other consonant, you write it all: k – o – consonant, unless there is an omission covered by a separate rule, or a brief form, or an abbreviated word.

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